Despite having only six fights to his name under the UFC banner, Blagoy Ivanov has fought the cream of the crop in the heavyweight division.
Joining the UFC in 2018, Ivanov was thrown into his first main event straight away against former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. Two fights later, Ivanov continued fighting some of the division’s biggest names, defeating Tai Tuivasa via unanimous decision, and suffering a split decision loss to Derrick Lewis, a fight he wholeheartedly believes he won.
Ivanov landed nearly double the total strikes, had two more takedowns and accumulated over a minute more of control time. So, as demoralizing a defeat as it was for Ivanov, he believes he fought well enough to get a win and has never fell short of confidence since.
Six months later, Ivanov turned around and fought Augusto Sakai at UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns but fell short once again, this time feeling cheated from another victory due to illegal fence grabs from his opponent.
“I think, with Derrick Lewis, it was a really close fight,” Ivanov said. “Statistically I won, but the judges decided it was no good. With Augusto, it was the same. He grabbed the cage like two times I think, but this is in the past and I’m just looking forward to my next opponent.”
The last time fans saw him compete in the Octagon, Ivanov earned a decisive victory over UFC veteran Marcos Rogerio de Lima at UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje. Despite hoping to compete sooner, Ivanov was sidelined with an injury after the fight, and has used the last seven months to return back to 100 percent.
Fans will finally see him back in action at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Spivac, when Ivanov faces Top 10 heavyweight Marcin Tybura. Back in August, Tybura collected his most impressive win to date, handing undefeated Alexandr Romanov the first loss of his professional career.
An impressive six wins in his last seven has surged Tybura into the number 10 spot in the rankings. That ranking has been a driving force in Ivanov’s motivation this training camp as he looks to climb the ladder himself with a win on Saturday.
“He’s better in the rankings than me and that gives me more motivation,” Ivanov said. “During camp, I pushed myself more. It was good motivation for me.”
“If I beat him, I think I’m going to be Top 10 and I’ll be in a [good] position.”
In addition to his regular mix of striking and grappling, Ivanov has put an emphasis on conditioning this training camp. As seen with the heavyweight division’s elite athletes like Ciryl Gane and Curtis Blaydes, speed and cardio have become more and more important in a constantly evolving sport. Noting that Tybura is a talented opponent, Ivanov believes his advancements in those areas will put him a step ahead come this weekend.
“He’s a tough guy,” Ivanov said. “He’s good everywhere but I think I’m the better fighter… I think [the fight] is good stylistically for me because my striking is better than his. My speed will surprise him and I have focused more on my conditioning. In MMA, you have to be focused everywhere.”
UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Spivac took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!