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Vitaly Bigdash has found a second home in Phuket

Former ONE Middleweight Champion explains his love for warm-weather training in Thailand

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Former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash is all set to start another run towards championship gold in ONE Championship, but he knows he faces a stiff test in the form of former title challenger Leandro Ataides at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY.

The 33-year-old Russian was due to face Ataides back in January, but a staph infection forced Bigdash out of the matchup. Now the pair will meet on 12 May in Jakarta in a rearranged bout that many are viewing as a potential title eliminator.

As usual, Bigdash and his team have relocated to Thailand for a one-month stint as part of his training camp. It’s a location that has paid great dividends during his career, as he explained.

“My team and I were looking for a different place to get a fight camp done,” the explained.

“We chose Thailand, because its training camps were getting more and more traction on social media. Back then, we chose Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. The training was all right, but what impressed me the most was its stunning nature, kind people, and delicious food.”

Phuket is markedly different to Bigdash’s home in Russia, and offers him a new set of climatic challenges as he looks to optimise his training.

It is hard to train in Phuket because of the humidity, but it helps me get acclimatized better,” he says.

“Training here also increases my endurance. Being here makes it easier to cut weight naturally just through training and dieting. I just eat well and train, and the weight seems to fall off.”

During his many visits to Thailand Bigdash built up a solid relationship with Phuket Top Team, who now host his team when they come over to train.

“I now consider Phuket Top Team my second gym. It is impossible to imagine my year’s calendar without a trip to Phuket, and rolling on the mats with these guys,” Bigdash says.

“The owner Boyd Clarke and his wife Kannika have always helped me, and made my team feel welcomed. There is this warmth and family atmosphere that I did not encounter in other camps, which seem to be too commercial.

“Besides, the team here is great, and I take advantage of a wide range of training available from Muay Thai to grappling. Their mixed martial arts and wrestling coach Eric Uresk is a top guy, and I have learned a lot from him.”

Finding suitably-proportioned training partners in Thailand can sometimes prove a challenge, so Bigdash brings a host of middleweight training partners over from Russia.

“It is the luck of the draw,” he explained.

“Sometimes the gym is full of beasts, and sometimes there is no one decent for me [to train with], but I usually bring some guys with me. They are my sparring partners, my friends, my coaches, and my cornermen all in one.

“The lack of sparring partners does not matter though, because I start my fight prep two months before the fight. During the first month, I drill a lot, and the second half is more focused on getting my body to its peak performance stage, and getting acclimatised.”

Despite being a regular visitor to Thailand, Bigdash admits he hasn’t been able to find the time to appreciate the stunning scenery and culture of the country, simply because he’s immersed in his training.

“Southeast Asia is so beautiful, but I am here to work,” he admitted.

“Most of the time, all I see is the gym and the beach, but even that makes me happy every time I am in the region.”

Perhaps a recreational visit could be in his future if he secures victory in Jakarta at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY.

And if he wins, and earns a shot at the ONE Middleweight Title in the process, you can bet Bigdash will be back in Phuket once again preparing to try to win back his old title once again.

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including the FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Olympic Games, UFC world title fights, The Grand National and The FA Cup Final.

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