Kirill Grishenko didn’t make his MMA debut until relatively late in life. He was 28 when he finally decided to make the transition from wrestling to competing inside a cage.

But he Belarusian took to this new sport like the proverbial duck to water. He won his first five fights, earning a shot at the interim ONE Championship heavyweight title in the process.

Grishenko would ultimately come up short on that night. He was stopped in the second round by Anatoly Malykhin at ONE: ‘Bad Blood’ but he has still come a long way in a very short space of time.

“Look at me. Who would have thought that after only a year and a half in MMA I would fight for the belt?” he told

Tough fight

Grishenko faces Marcus Almeida at ONE on Prime Video 1. It is another tough fight but the Belarusian is competing on one of the biggest cards of the year.

He has come a long way since his humble roots as a wrestler in the small town of Kalinkavichy. Grishenko does not come from a family of athletes and caught his parents by surprise when declaring he wanted to be a wrestler,

“We were an ordinary family with average income. My father was an ambulance driver, and my mother was a paramedic, my parents were loving and supportive. I’d say I had a happy childhood.”


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Life path

He only got into wrestling because there was a club located in a very convenient location,

“I was brought to a local wrestling club by my friends because it was next door to our homes. There was no other particular reason to join it, just something fun to do nearby.”

He would go on to get accepted into a school with a specialist wrestling program and this was the point that Grishenko, and his parents, realized that his path had been set,

“When I got accepted into the Olympic Reserve College at the age of 15, my mom realized that my life path was determined, and she had no choice but be supportive.”


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High standard

Grishenko immediately discovered that the standard was much higher. It was a rapid learning curve but one that only made him more determined to succeed,

“At my very first training session at the Olympic Reserve College, they paired me up with the coach’s son, and he just started destroying me. It motivated me right away, I wanted to get on the same level as him as soon as possible.”

Several of Almeida’s previous opponents have pulled out. But Grishenko is adamant that he is not intimidated by the multiple time BJJ world champion,

“I’m not afraid of him. Training camp is in full swing (and) I can’t wait to face him.”

Grishenko accepts that his opponent has an elite level ground game but has not been impressed by what he has seen of Almeida’s striking,

“I think he’s a high-level grappler. If he can improve his striking, he has a chance to be a champion (but) he relies on his ground game too much.”

Valuable lesson

The loss to Malykhin was the first of his career but Grishenko says he learned some valuable lessons and is not dwelling on that defeat,

“Lessons were learned, homework was done, and now I’m working on correcting my mistakes and improving my weaknesses, and I hope to show my new skills in the next fight.”

He does not sound intimidated by his opponent’s grappling credentials. Grishenko believes his striking is superior and thinks the Brazilian might struggle to get the fight to the ground,

“I know what I’m capable of. He’s got the advantage on the ground overall and particularly in grappling but not by a landslide. I can beat him in striking and my (wrestling)  base means he will struggle to take me to the ground.”

Grishenko still has the determination to succeed that served him so well in wrestling. On his first day at the wrestling school he was dominated but it only made him more hungry to succeed.

He is coming off the first loss of his MMA career but believes this mentality will allow him to bounce back in the most impressive way with a win over a BJJ legend next week,

“You should never give up, even when it’s hard. Do your best, get up, and try to go all the way and achieve your goals.”