Being a heavyweight champion in the sport of MMA instantly labels you as one of the baddest men on the planet. This term suits undisputed WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov perfectly. The Bulgarian has been through hell and back in both his MMA career and in his personal life. Still, he’s managed to amass an impressive record sprinkled with finishes. To close out WSOF35 on March 18th at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, Ivanov will defend his heavyweight crown for the third time against former UFC contender Shawn Jordan. Until then, here are ten things you need to know about the current WSOF heavyweight champion.
Ivanov has a killer instinct
The Bulgarian has been fighting professionally for over a decade. During that time, he’s amassed a 14-1 record and is currently the WSOF heavyweight king. But over the course of 15 professional bouts, he has only gone to the judges 3 times, the rest of which have been TKO (5) or submission (7) finishes.
He is a decorated Sambo champion
Some of the most dangerous fighters competing in MMA have Sambo backgrounds. Ivanov is considered an International Master of Sport in Sambo and was also the 2008 Combat Sambo World Champion at the tournament held in St. Petersburg, Russia.
He’s defeated “The Emperor”
Despite being shorter than most heavyweights, Ivanov is an incredibly intimidating figure in MMA. This aura is also prevalent in the Sambo world. Ivanov notably defeated four-time Sambo champion and MMA legend, Fedor Emelianenko in the semi-finals of the 2008 Sambo World Championships; A feat not many men can say they’ve accomplished.
His grappling pedigree is world-class
The undisputed WSOF heavyweight champion has had his share of combat sports experience including reaching the pinnacle of one of the world’s top MMA promotions and becoming a Sambo world champion. He also boasts being a black belt in Judo.
He chose mixed martial arts over competing in other combat sports
Ivanov’s success in Judo allowed him the opportunity to represent Bulgaria at Balkan tournaments and at the European tournaments. He was so successful as a Judoka that he was offered the opportunity to represent Bulgaria at the national level in the 2012 Olympic Games, but chose a career in MMA instead.
His third professional bout didn’t go as planned
Ivanov only has one noticeable blemish on his career and it is his first and only loss to Alexander Volkov in 2014. Ivanov’s third-professional bout wouldn’t go as planned either but didn’t see the champion suffer a loss. Facing UFC light heavyweight contender Ilir Latifi at Real Pain Challenge 2, Ivanov’s night ended in the first round via no contest due to the ring fall apart during the middle of their contest.
He survived a life-threatening injury
In February 2012, Ivanov’s career came to a sudden halt when he and his two friends were attacked outside of a bar in Bulgaria. The heavyweight champ was stabbed below the armpit with the blade of the knife penetrating his heart and putting him in intensive care. He wasn’t discharged from the hospital until four months later.
He gave a press conference in the hospital
While in the final months of his recovery he was so determined to return to competition that in May 2012 he gave a press conference WHILE IN the hospital, stating he would try to return to the cage within six months to a year. This may make Ivanov one of the toughest heavyweights on the planet.
His recovery didn’t stop in the hospital
Once Ivanov left the hospital after a dramatic four months of recovery, he was barely able to walk on his own and had trouble breathing. Still, Ivanov was vehemently determined to return to the cage he began light training a week removed from his hospital bed and slowly made his way back to MMA training within a month.
He is lucky to be alive, let alone compete
Ivanov’s survival story and return to competition is nothing short of brilliant. Particularly because he was so dedicated, even while in the midst of a life-threatening injury, to make a return to the cage. In fact, the stab wound that pierced his heart and lung was one that his doctor claimed, “one in a million people would survive from.” It’s not too often someone can say they’re one in a million and have it be true.