Interview: Yan Digilov

“As long as I focus on my unique style, I will be satisfied with my performance. “

Yan Digilov

Interview by: AJ Hoffman

Paradigm’s Yan Digilov will step into the cage for the second time on Friday, this time taking on Brandon Hanna. We had a chance to talk to him before the fight and get to know a little bit about him.

TCD: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what got you started in MMA?

Digilov: I am originally from from Russia and immigrated to Houston as a little kid with my family. I went to Rice University after finishing Emery High School here in town, so I haven’t found the need to leave this fine city since coming here. Discovering MMA has been a big part of me growing to really appreciate the city that I live in. The culture around mixed martial arts is so diverse. We get fighters at Paradigm that come from all backgrounds from across the city and the world. It is really incredible how everyone’s style is expressed through the sport, and I think the diversity is really what makes us such competitive fighters.

TCD: What do you consider your strengths to be as a fighter? What would you say are your weaknesses?

Digilov: My greatest strength, I have always felt, is the team that I have surrounding me. We have world class wrestlers, vicious strikers, and brilliant bjj black belts all under one roof. That has given me a very well rounded style of mma, which is a strength on its own. I am confident taking any fight to the ground or keeping it standing. At the same time, I have been striving to really improve my stand up, which is the area that I think I need to work the hardest. We all know how to get a guy in a guillotine, armbar, or choke, but the game changes once you get hit in the face with a 4 oz. glove.

TCD: Talk about your first fight. You were really impressive in your performance against Jose Martinez. 

Digilov: I was really nervous coming into my fight against Jose, who is known for his bjj skill. But when it came down to it, I think our overall game plan was just right. I did what I had to do and the end product was my first win. Before the fight, my teammate Rashon Lewis was telling me to focus on myself and the strengths that I have. Since then, that has really been my approach to the sport and what I took away from my fight with Jose. As long as I focus on my unique style, I will be satisfied with my performance.

TCD: What do you know about your opponent at Cage Combat 7, Brandon Hanna?

Digilov: I know that he is a tough guy, because he took some big punches from my teammate, Edgar, in his last fight. Edgar is a really strong fighter and I respect him a lot, so I am not taking Brandon lightly. He has a good team over there in college station, and I can’t wait to have a brawl with him. I think it is going to be a good fight.

TCD: How do you think training with the guys at Paradigm have helped your development?

Digilov: There is no Yan Digilov without Paradigm. Everything I know about fighting comes from there. I remember when I just started at Paradigm, Colin Wright was the only guy around who really had any idea what the sport was all about, and he was the first one to teach me how to throw a kick. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was to be getting my first advice from such a quality fighter.

From then on, a lot of great pros and teachers came in the mix. I owe a lot to guys like Brian Melancon, Lee King, and Mike The Greek, who taught me how to combine my stand up game with my ground attack. And I also met Kimo Show there who has been my striking coach ever since. His ability to motivate me, and unforgiving style has shaped me as a fighter.

The funny part about Paradigm, though, is that we have high school wrestlers coming in, training with us, who can take down 99% of the mma fighters in the city. Not to mention the world class wrestling instructors who sculpt those little machines. So the level of competition is quite high at the gym.

TCD: Regarding Paradigm, does seeing your teammates have so much success on the pro level boost your confidence at all?

Digilov: Seeing those guys have so much success makes me honored to even be called their teammate. I still think I have a lot to prove before I earn that title. The bar is raised very high, and a lot is expected of me. I am just grateful for the opportunity to chase those pinnacles of success.

TCD: Do you intend to keep fighting as a hobby, or are you hoping to make a career out of this?

Digilov: I am not really the kind of person that can keep my hobbies separate from my everyday life. I think it is an honor to fight even when you aren’t getting paid for it. One day that will change and I will go pro, but the difference for me is inconsequential. As long as I am physically able, I will keep fighting. As far as I am concerned, success in the ring is always tied to success and happiness throughout my life.

TCD: Is there anything else you want to mention or anyone you want to thank?

Digilov: I would be remiss to leave out huge recognition to my BJJ master and friend Igor Santos. His approach to the sport is inspiring and I am honored to be a representative of the GFT name. I also need to thank Gulled Ahmed, who is a close friend and trainer who does more for the world and the sport than people know. His humility and passion is matched by none. The whole team at Paradigm is responsible for every punch I throw and submission I finish. Thanks to Reed Shelger for running such an incredible gym and all our guys there. Lastly, and most importantly, I need to thank my family and friends for supporting me through all of my passions and endeavors. My family, though they may be too terrified to watch me fight, is always with me in the cage, and I can always hear my friends from the crowd suggesting that I execute the technical maneuver to “rip his ******* head off!”