Artem Lobov knows he's being viewed as cannon fodder for his upcoming main event against Cub Swanson in Nashville, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
When Lobov called UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to ask for the fight with Swanson, he knew the reaction he was going to receive but that's part of the reason he was requesting the matchup in the first place.
With just a 2-2 record in the UFC, Lobov knew he was making a major jump up the rankings by asking to face the No. 4 fighter in the division, but nothing would please him more than proving everybody wrong and that may have ultimately earned him the fight.
"To be honest, I was asking the UFC for a long time because I love to stay active. I love fighting. I'm not in the sport for any other reason than the love of fighting so I just kept hassling them for a fight and they just wouldn't give me one. Then I saw Cub's fight versus "The Korean Superboy" [Doo Ho Choi] and I thought wow, what a great fight. I'd love to be involved in something like that and I thought Cub was a great matchup for me," Lobov explained when speaking to FOX Sports.
"So I just messaged Sean Shelby saying 'listen Sean, I know you probably think Cub would beat me but please, let me prove you wrong' and sure enough he gave me that chance. April 22 I get to prove him wrong and by the looks of it the whole world."
Lobov is stepping into his first UFC main event as a decided underdog.
Odds makers have Lobov as high as a 7-to-1 underdog against Swanson, who has clearly faced the higher level of competition throughout his career with the UFC and WEC.
None of that matters to Lobov because he sees this as the perfect opportunity to jump the line at 145 pounds while also having the chance to put on an all time classic against a willing opponent like Swanson.
"This is one of the reasons I asked for the fight because it's going to be an amazing fight. At the end of the day, titles, whatever, it's all about putting on great fights," Lobov said. "I mean look at Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar. That wasn't a title fight, but everybody talks about that fight to this day. That's the type of fight I want to be involved in.
"I feel that Cub Swanson is going to give me the chance to be involved in a fight just like that."
As much as Lobov asked for the fight because he felt like it would be an exciting matchup, it didn't take long for him to engage in a war of words with Swanson over social media.
Lobov says he didn't pay too much attention to it outside of one particular exchange that ended with Swanson claiming to have more Russian fans than his opponent, who was originally born in the country before relocating to Ireland.
"I generally don't look much at it to be honest. If he messaged me directly, I will respond but he's been going off topic. He's talking about fans and saying that he's got more fans than me in Russia," Lobov said. "It's like I'm digging your grave here and you're talking about fans?
"OK, you have more fans than me. Congrats. You're going to have a big funeral."
While Lobov will definitely step into the fight with the odds against him, he also knows that he holds the ultimate equalizers with the dynamite possessed in each of his firsts. Lobov has shown off his knockout power in the past, including a dominant run through his season of "The Ultimate Fighter" when he finished three straight opponents by knockout or TKO.
It's that knockout power that Lobov plans to use against Swanson on Saturday night.
"I don't think he's faced anyone with the kind of power I bring," Lobov said. "On my first fight on "The Ultimate Fighter" in the house, I broke a guy's orbital bone. He didn't leave his room for weeks. This is the kind of power that's enough to crush people's skulls. When I say I'm breaking people's faces, I don't say that just to sound cool. It's a fact. I've broken many people's faces before and I don't think this is something Cub has faced before.
"Even "The Korean Superboy" managed to rock him. Imagine if I connect. I'm being dead serious here I hope they're able to wake him back up."
For all the words he's exchanged with Swanson leading up to the fight, Lobov knows all that really matters is what he does inside the Octagon
Lobov is well aware that he's being counted out by most fans, critics and Swanson himself, but that skepticism only given him that much more reason to win.
"There's nothing more motivating than seeing people doubt you," Lobov said. "There is no better feeling in the world than shutting them all up and proving them all wrong."