Luigi Fioravanti wants to send Andrei Semenov back into retirement at M-1 Challenge XXV – exclusive interview

Luigi "The Italian Tank" Fioravanti

On April 28, Luigi “The Italian Tank” Fioravanti will travel into enemy territory to face Andrei Semenov in his homeland at M-1 Challenge XXV at the Ice Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Fioravanti (22-8) will carry a five-fight win streak in against Semenov (29-9-2), a fellow middleweight who has won his last three bouts, but who has also been out of action since Nov. 2008.

In an exclusive interview with this past week, Fioravanti shared his thoughts on facing a respected veteran like Semenov and what he is expecting in the fight.

He also discussed his training, his thoughts on the UFC-Strikeforce merger, and what lies ahead for “The Italian Tank.”

PRO MMA NOW: Thank you for speaking with us at Luigi. You have been on a nice run the past year-and-a-half or so. How has training been going for your upcoming fight on April 28 in St. Petersburg?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: It’s been going good, you know. I’ve been training really hard and training everything; my ground, my wrestling, my stand-up, so just being prepared to get in there and mix it up with Andrei.

PRO MMA NOW: Where have you been training and who has been helping you get ready for Andrei Semenov?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I train with guys at ATT (American Top Team) here in Orlando, and I train with some of the guys from The Jungle; Seth Petruzelli and Tom Lawlor, and the rest of the crew over there. And my trainer, he’s from Mejiro Gym. He represents the USA branch of Mejiro Gyms, so he’s been helping me out with my striking.

PRO MMA NOW: Do you ever get to Coconut Creek to work with Howard Davis Jr. and those guys?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I haven’t been down there in about eight months. It’s about four hours from where I live, so I do most of my training in Orlando.

PRO MMA NOW: What are your thoughts on Andrei Semenov and how do you see yourself matching up with him?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I think he’s a very good fighter, a tough fighter. He’s a legend. A lot of the new fans don’t know who he is but a lot of the hardcore fans do. I think he’s fought some really good guys and he’s been everywhere and fought everywhere. I think he’s fought in those old IVC Challenges down in Brazil, the old Vale Tudo ones with no gloves, just like head-butts and everything. The guy is a good striker, good on the ground, he’s good all-around you know. The thing is he’s coming out of retirement you know. He’s had almost a three-year layoff, so I think he’s going to be a little rusty coming in, you know. I’m sure he still trains here and there, but he hasn’t been fighting consistently. Me going in there, I have been fighting consistently. I’m confident and I’m a veteran as well. I’ve fought all over and I’v fought some of the who’s who, guys in the UFC. So I think I match up well with him. I think I’m a little bit better on the ground because of my BJJ. Don’t get me wrong, the guy’s a good Sambo guy, if you give him an arm he’ll take it, but I think on the ground I’m stronger you know. The guy’s got good striking you know, but I’ll keep it on the feet as well. I like to throw down as well.

PRO MMA NOW: Do you happen to know why he came out of retirement?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe he was hungry, maybe he needs money, I don’t know. They can’t be paying him that much. (laughs) I don’t know what it is. The guy was doing movies and stuff, I think in Russia, that’s what I’ve been hearing, he’s kind of like considered a celebrity over there doing soap operas and movies and stuff. I guess he wants to make a comeback to the ring and come out of retirement.

PRO MMA NOW: So would you like to send him back into retirement and make him think twice about coming back?

LUIGI FIORAVANITI: That’s the plan man, you know, just to come in there and be in his face and maybe make him think twice, you know. At this point in his career there’s going to be a little bit of doubt. He’s had a ton of fights. Who knows how many fights he’s had? His record shows he has a little over 40 fights, but he could have more you know. Maybe he’s trying his last go at it just to see where he’s at.

PRO MMA NOW: I think he’s still fairly young too.

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: He’s 34. So yeah, he’s not too old but the thing is the guy’s been fighting since 1997-1996. He’s been fighting since he was young. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the body. When you’ve had a career like that, look at Joe Riggs. That guy is young too. (laughs) He’s been through some wars, you know. When you’ve been through those wars I think it ages the body even though he’s not at an old age, you know what I mean?

PRO MMA NOW: Like dog years.

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Exactly. Cause it’s a lot of stress, training. It’s a lot of physical stress, you know, mental stress.

PRO MMA NOW: How do you feel about fighting him in his hometown of St. Petersburg; is that difficult to go in there and perform when the whole crowd is cheering for your opponent?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I don’t really care, you know. The last time I was there I fought a Russian dude and they were all cheering for him. Even though he was doing some dirty tactics. He would have like a minute-and-a-half in the corner, stalling, and grabbing on the ropes and stuff like that. Yeah, he’s going to be Russian but I don’t care. It’s going to be his hometown but I think it’s just going to put more pressure on him. He’s fighting in front of his home town, his friends, his family and what-not.

PRO MMA NOW: You like it over there, you like traveling to that part of the world?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Yeah, I like traveling to any part of the world to tell you the truth. I just like to see something different, experience different cultures and stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to go to Russia. I got to see Moscow and got to go see the Kremlin. Now I get a chance to go see St. Petersburg. It’s supposed to be a really nice city, so I can’t wait to go do that.

PRO MMA NOW: It’s got to be a great benefit of what you do, to get to see a lot of the world.

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Oh definitely. It’s just the passport and visa process is such a pain in the neck. It’s just a headache.

PRO MMA NOW: How do you feel about the direction MMA is heading with Zuffa’s takeover of Strikeforce; do you feel fighters have less options these days to make a good living?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Yes and no. Now the thing is that Zuffa has bought up Strikeforce it can give fighters more opportunity to go into these big shows but then like they always get threatened with, “If you don’t put on a good performance…” That’s why you always watch guys in the UFC almost like they fight to win the round, you know what I mean. Not fighting to finish and stuff, because they’re afraid they’re going to get cut, you know, they get let go after their first fight. It’s happened you know. I don’t know if they’re going to do that in Strikeforce. They might, you know.

PRO MMA NOW: Are you excited about being in M-1, would you like to get into their tournament and eventually get a title shot or do you feel this is more of a stepping stone for you to eventually get back to the UFC?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Right now I’m not signed with them exclusively, you know. But I think this is a fight for me to be able to possibly get back in a bigger organization, either UFC, Strikeforce, or you know, if M-1 wants to keep me on board I’m down for that. They’ve been nothing but nice to me. They’ve taken care of me, so if they come at me with an opportunity to fight for a title or something, or a deal that I like then of course I’ll definitely sign on.

PRO MMA NOW: How many more years do you see yourself fighting and what would you like to achieve before it’s all said and done?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I don’t know, right now I just fight as much as I can. It just depends on how much my body is going to be able to hold up. It’s starting to take a toll a little bit on me, you know, but we’ll see in the next couple of years how my body handles it. I’m looking to open my gym here pretty soon in the Orlando area, so we’ll just see how with the gym and with fighting altogether how it turns out.

PRO MMA NOW: Is there anyone out there you would like to fight that you have not fought yet?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Usually the guys I want to fight are the guys I have lost to in the past, so if I could get a rematch with all those guys that’d be nice, yeah. I just take one fight at a time and hope for the best and have fun doing it.

PRO MMA NOW: What do you see next after this fight, what does the rest of 2011 got in store for you?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Well, on June 30th I’ll be fighting Joe Doerksen in Ontario.

PRO MMA NOW: Okay, what organization is that?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: I really don’t know man. (laughs) I don’t know the organization’s name, I just got offered that fight.

PRO MMA NOW: Okay, but it’s signed and done and everything?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: It’s not signed yet, but it’s been verbally agreed on.

PRO MMA NOW: Okay, was there anything else you wanted to let the fans know or talk about before we go?

LUIGI FIORAVANTI: Just thanks for all the support. Thanks to M-1 Global, ATT, Mejiro Gym USA, MMA Overload – my sponsor, Fight-Bite for making awesome mouthpieces and everybody else that’s supported me and helped me train for this fight.

Be sure to tune-in to on Thursday, April 28, to watch the LIVE video broadcast of M-1 Challenge XXV featuring two title fights, plus Luigi Fioravanti vs. Andrei Semenov and more.