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UFC’s Krylov explains reluctance to speak on Russia-Ukraine conflict ahead of return

UFC light heavyweight star Nikita Krylov has explained why he has chosen to refrain from commenting on the ongoing military operation in Ukraine, saying he feels he has little of value to add to the debate which has dominated the headlines across the past few weeks. 

Krylov, who was born in Lugansk and has carried both the Russian and Ukrainian flags on past visits to the Octagon, makes his return in London this weekend against Scottish fighter Paul Craig, but says that he would prefer to concentrate on the task at hand rather than act as a vehicle for further media intrigue into the ongoing conflict. 

“Now there are many athletes, many fighters talking about the main topic that they are raising,” Krylov told Russian channel Match TV of the military operation which has been ongoing in Ukraine since last month.

“Even if it were interesting for me to develop [this topic], I understand that there will be people with a different opinion, and there will always be an opposite side, and this will cause a lot of negativity. Why make people feel negative?

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A post shared by Никита Крылов (@nikitakrylovufc)

“It’s best to keep your opinion to yourself then. It is clear that I have only one topic in my head and I don’t want to voice it, but everything that is happening in the media now, for some public people, 60-70% is drawing attention to themselves.

“They are not so interested in changing something as expressing an opinion and drawing attention to themselves. I have no desire to draw attention to myself.”

Speaking separately to RIA Novosti, Krylov did touch upon how the conflict in the Donbass region – where Russia recently recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – had hit close to home, with some of his family remaining in the city of Krasny Luch in Lugansk. 

“The situation is really difficult, but I’m glad that my wife and child are safe,” said the 30-year-old.

“Men aged 18 to 55 are restricted from leaving… If I hadn’t left in January and had started preparing there, everything would have been different.

“What worries me the most is the explosions from (missiles) in Donetsk and Makeyevka, the number of victims… This mood has persisted for eight years, so I can’t say that something is happening now new to me,” he added.


© Buda Mendes / Zuffa LLC

Despite Krylov’s desire to refrain from making his views public, the military operation in Ukraine has had an impact on Saturday’s fight card in London.

The event’s headliner, Moscow native Alexander Volkov, has been cleared to fight despite concerns that his previously-issued visa would be revoked amid an apparent crackdown on Russian athletes and sports teams – with the UFC even drafting in a heavyweight fighter to be on stand-by to face hometown fighter Tom Aspinall should the UK government rescind Volkov’s visa.

And while Krylov was unaffected, it wasn’t the same for some members of his corner team.

“It became a big problem for some of my cornermen,” Krylov explained of the travel uncertainty.

I was asked by the UFC to arrive as early as possible. As soon as my visa was issued, I immediately flew out, on March 1 I was already here. Because of this, the preparation plan got a little off, because I was supposed to have another week of training in Tver [in Russia].

“But, in principle, here we were able to make up for all this. Although, for example, Alexander Volkov arrived on March 12, and everything is fine with him. We can say that we rushed a bit… but now everything is alright.”

But now that he stands on the eve of his 15th fight in the UFC (and his first since last February’s defeat to Magomed Ankalaev), Krylov says that he doesn’t expect ring-rust to be an issue once the first bell rings. 

“There are no fears about the break in activity,” he said. 

Of course, I’m used to fighting more often. But in 2020, coronavirus restrictions played a role, I was preparing for the fight with Magomed Ankalaev with an injury. An operation, an old injury surfaced, another operation.

“Now I’m more than ready.”

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