The current conflict taking place between Russia and Ukraine has brought attention to the stories of Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir. Both men, highly accomplished professional boxers, staying in their native country to fight against Russian attackers, is a story that has piqued the interest of many.
There is another well-known retired pugilist from the Eastern Europe’s second largest country in Ukraine that is often forgotten on the American front because he never stepped foot inside the UFC octagon.
The third part of a series titled “Land of Heroes,” which was released in 2013 documents many untold tales of Ukraine’s most notable MMA fighter of all-time, Igor Vovchanchyn. The 46-minute segment (available for viewing below with English subtitles) details the life of the now 48-year-old retired fighter.
Vovchanchyn fought during a time and place when records were often times meaningless or well-documented. While his journey in mixed martial arts did cross over to a period where rules and sanctioning bodies were quickly becoming established, Vovchanchyn is what you could call an “OG” of the combat sports.
Vovchanchyn’s coach, Alexander Fyodorovich, states that between 1995 and 200, his pupil participated in more than 200 fights.
Depending which websites you cross-reference, you may find varying statistics. In the video below, Vovchanchyn’s MMA record is documented at 87 fights including 76 wins, 10 losses, and one tie, while Tapology has him listed at 55-10-1, Sherdog at 56-10-1, and mixedmartialarts.com at 52-10-0.
Watch “Land of Heroes” below:
Vovchanchyn is a physical specimen, built like an ox. One of his strongest features is his hands. Vovchanchyn recalled meeting the then 96-year-old Helio Gracie backstage at the Pride FC Grand Prix 2000, when the famed founder of Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu complimented him on his strength. Vovchanchyn respectfully shook Gracie’s hand and told him that he has “watched all of his videos and learned from him.” That’s when the Godfather of BJJ grabbed Vovchanchyn’s other hand and said, “if I had fists like yours, I wouldn’t bother with grappling at all.”
To understand Vovchanchyn’s mindset when it comes to training, you might have to take the word of his longtime instructor in Fyodorovich, who took Igor under his tutelage in 1995.
“This is a man with a capital ‘M’ if you know what I mean,” Fyodorovich said about Vovchanchyn. ‘You can’t really describe it. He puts in 200% of what I tell him to do; word by word, 200%.”
After making his professional mixed martial arts debut in 1995, Vovchanchyn won nine openweight MMA tournaments (back when tournament format required three to four consecutive bare-knuckle fights during the same night), three superfights, holds the second longest unbeaten streak in MMA (at 37 fights,) and is the second most successful MMA fighter ever by number of wins achieved by way of knockout.
The legend known as “Ice Cold” made a name for himself in numerous promotions, but it was his time in PRIDE FC that sealed the deal and put Igor Vovchanchyn at the top of the list of Ukranian MMA fighters.