It was March 2019 when 14 year old Alexander Andreev from Riga took his seat at a live MMA tournament in his hometown to watch one of the best Latvian MMA athletes at that time, Danik Vesnenok. At that moment, the young man fell in love with MMA and wanted to connect his life with the sport. Fast forward two months and Andreev was taking part in his first training session.
His route into the sport followed a similar path of many youngsters, although he did not experience immediate success, “at the age of seven, I went to my first karate training which my friend had invited me too After a while, I began to compete in tournaments but at first nothing worked out and I wanted to quit everything.” Having worked hard and overcoming his desire to quit, he started to see some success and began competing in kickboxing alongside karate. “Gradually I decided that I wanted something more and at the age of 15 years old I realised that it was time to make the transition into MMA.”
Having grown up as a football fan, he has great admiration for the stars of the game who have worked so hard to get to where they are. His respect and support of stars in his own sport of MMA include Conor McGregor who Andreev credits as bringing MMA to the next level. “I have always admired his boldness and confidence and partially thanks to him, I wanted to begin training for MMA as I love his confidence and style of competing. It would be a great honor for me to get into the ring with him as it would probably be one of the best days of my life.”
If that may seem a distant dream at this stage with McGregor coming to the end of his career, the young Latvian is well on his way to enjoy success for years to come. Having made a winning start to his amateur career during his debut fight, he has gone on to beat two of the best young fighters in Latvia. First was Andrey Korolev at the Ghetto Fight tournament in Riga last year. He then followed that up with a junior title fight in the 77kg category against another talented countryman, Vadim Skrebelis. “These fights have been extremely important for myself belief and to prove to myself that I am able to go through any difficulties and remain strong and focused.”
Describing his title fight, Alexander spoke confidently, “My thoughts were focused only on victory. I knew even before the fight that I would emerge victorious. I was ready for a tough, uncompromising challenge and I was prepared to do anything to win the belt.”
Mental vs Physical
For a young man, he is already very aware of some of the factors that can influence his fights, “I consider visualisation one of the important factors in achieving victory. If you can imagine it in your head and you are ready for it, then everything will work out. Of course, the physical component of a fighter is very important in our sport, but I am sure that no matter how strong you are, if your mental state is not strong and your spirit is weak, you are already beaten. After all, the most important battle is not in the ring, it is in your head.”
Winning a belt this early in his career is a great step for the talented Latvian, but he is not getting too caught up in the hype. “Knowing that all the hard work has paid off and that you have achieved what you have worked towards it is probably the best feeling I have ever experienced. I’m very happy that I won this belt, but this is just the beginning of my journey in MMA.”
Turning professional is the dream for many young athletes starting out in the sport but only a small number ever manage to achieve that. For Andreev though, his dream is slowly becoming a reality. “I realised that I could become a professional fighter when I clearly understood what I wanted and set myself the goal. I periodically train with others who fight like pros. They share their experiences with me, and it is highly motivating. It is a matter of hard work and dedication in training, and by God’s will, everything shall work out.”
The pragmatic youngster has already tasted international competition at the GAMMA European Championships. “The experience of participating certainly made me more capable as an athlete. Performing in such a large tournament at this age will surely be beneficial for my career and professional future. I feel much stronger after competing in the GAMMA event.”
Progressing in the sport requires constant learning and working on your strengths and weaknesses. Alexander is already taking so much from his experiences as he looks to continue his development. “MMA has taught me that even in difficult situations, I must not give up and the same applies to life outside of the ring. You can always find a way out. The most important thing is to not be ruled by your emotions. I consider one of my strengths being my attitude and mental strength. Every day I try to keep improving my skills and evolving as an athlete and a person.”
Looking to the future, Andreev is taking his time to be the best version of himself, “my goal is to train hard and try to compete in various tournaments as much as possible, gain experience and develop as a fighter. I think this year you will hear more about me and my team SpartaMMAClubRiga. Of course, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t say that I dream of competing in the world’s best promotions.”
Knowing he is a role model, not only in Latvia, but for young athletes everywhere, he shared his advice for the next generation, “if you want to become a professional in this business, you must clearly decide that you want this. You must understand that you will have to sacrifice a lot, so ask yourself if you are ready. If you are ready, then welcome to hell because there are no easy ways here.”
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