Big News: MMA Champion Leads Elite Training Center Program

Elite is pleased to announce the enhancement ot its mixed martial arts (MMA) program.

“MMA is becoming the sport of the 21st century. When taught correctly MMA also provides self defense skills and confidence as well. We wanted wanted to ensure we offered the best MMA program for both adult and youth MMA students. Vladdy (Vladimir Matyushenko) is uniquely qualified to provide that MMA leadership to Elite Training Center students.” According to Brian Rauchbach President and Head Instructor.


Vladimir Matyushenko Bio

vladdyImagine a sweeping marsh-ridden flatland expanding as far as the eye can see. Green forests trim the horizon and cool, deep lakes interrupt tall grazing grasses. This is a Belarusian summer, and on a modest farm tucked away from his country’s cultural struggles, a boy reads a book. The pages tell of far-off places and traveled peoples around the globe, and the boy knows; one day he’ll walk those lands.

Vladimir Matyushenko grew up in the Belarus of 1971, a country that took nearly 30 years to recover from the effects of World War II. Just as it regained its feet, the USSR’s Communist Party leader Leonid Breschev reintroduced Stalin’s Sovietization programs. Thus, as Belarus began a new battle to preserve its language and culture, Vladimir buried himself in books and sports.

His focus brought success. At the age of 13, Vladimir earned acceptance to one of Belarus’ elite preparatory schools. There he would study and wrestle—professionally. In only 4 years, training against the nation’s best, Olympic hopefuls, Vladimir began paving a road towards his own gold medal.

This path carried the teenage Vladimir to Russia for an invitational wrestling tournament which touted some of the world’s toughest talent. The likes of Olympic Gold Medalist Kevin Jackson, Pan Am Gold Medalist/Olympian Mark Coleman, and World Silver Medalist Royce Alger made the trip from the United States with legendary coach Dave Schultz.

On the tournament’s eve, as Team USA finished up a light workout, Vladimir found himself mopping the mats—a task typically reserved for the event staff. The following morning Vladimir traded his mop and bucket for a singlet and pair of Asics. He first dismantled Royce Alger and then surprised the more accomplished Jackson in back-to-back upsets (according to the American point of view).

For Vladimir, it was just another day in the circle. But Mark Coleman would be sure to rib his teammates for having lost to “The Janitor,” a dubbing Vladimir accepted with his trademark chuckle. He’s been wiping the mat and canvas with opponents ever since.

Unfortunately, in a state run program when the country goes sour the program soon follows. Such was the case for Vladimir and Belarus. Just as his potential gained traction, Mikhail Gorbachev launched “Perestroika,” the Soviet reform plan of 1987. Belarus, at the time known as Byelorussian SSR, countered with a declaration of their stolen culture and their exposure to Chernobyl’s nuclear fallout. This perhaps explains Vladimir’s freakish strength.

Perestroika backfired on the Soviet Union, crashing the red country in economic woes, and by 1990 Belarus claimed its sovereignty. However, appearances often are not what they seem. Vladimir recognized his options. Stay in Belarus to become either a police officer or a criminal, or finagle his passage to a foreign land.

Despite the fact that Belarus’ national wrestling team was losing coaches and money left and right, they continued to travel for competition. In 1994, Vladimir once again found himself face to face with the Americans for a dual meet in New York. But as had become ever more prevalent, the Belarusian coaches refused payment to their wrestlers. Vladimir fumed. He had a family to support, and a heated argument left him still unpaid.

That night none other than Team USA member Royce Alger opened his hotel door to find Vladimir Matyushenko. They were to wrestle each other the next morning. Vladimir spoke little to no English, but Coach Dave Schultz had picked up Russian over the years as a student of Eastern wrestling. Royce grabbed Dave, and Vladimir explained his situation. The solution: obtain a student visa and stay in the US.

The 25-year-old Vladimir did just that and enrolled as an international student in California’s Lassen Junior College. His English consisted of a few grunts and nods, but Vladimir navigated computer literacy courses and chose to pursue a degree in physical education. At the same time, he needed money, and to his surprise, wrestling no longer proved a profitable endeavor. In Belarus, wrestling served as his profession. In California as in every state, it proved no more than a scholastic activity.

Vladimir immediately secured a job in the cafeteria and an assistant coaching position en route to two national titles. With support from the wrestling community, he sent what money he could to his wife and son in Belarus and sustained himself on cafeteria food. It all fit into what seems to be a life motto for Vladimir, “It’s not hard. You just do it.”

That very mentality carried Vladimir into the world of MMA. By 1999, he had finished his collegiate career with a BS in Physical Education & Health Science from the University of Nevada and reunited with his family. Now he needed a livelihood. He watched Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock’s battles in the first Ultimate Fighting Championships on TV and decided he had found his ticket. The IFC awaited his debut.

His first three fights came on a single night in an 8-man tournament for a $5,000 prize. Vladimir took the bank, ending each fight early and returning to California with a budding career. A move to Los Angeles in 2000 provided him with a proper launching pad. Training under Rico Chiapparelli with teammates Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, former Olympic alternate and Olympian in their own right, Vladimir set his sites on a legitimate career in MMA.

In his first seven fights, predominantly in the International Fighting Championship, Vladimir defeated all but one of his opponents by KO, TKO, or submission. A rematch with Vernon White earned him his first loss by split decision. Vladimir would rebound with three straight victories, the third of which over Yuki Kondo marked his debut in the UFC. A subsequent loss to Tito Ortiz led to three more victories, including a win over Antonio Rogerio Noguiera, before Vladimir met a primed Andrei Arlovski in UFC 44.

Arlovski won by way of knockout on his way to becoming the UFC Heavyweight Champion, sending Vladimir into a two-year hiatus from competition. But the Janitor has never been one to back down from adversity. He spent that time training the still undefeated Lyoto Machida and rising star Antoni Hardonk, the limber Dutch kickboxer.

He returned to the canvas in 2005 to record wins over Carlos Barreto and Anthony Ruiz and signed a contract with the International Fight League in 2007. Six more victories earned Vladimir his own IFL Heavyweight Championship belt, and with an overall record of 23-4-0, he has proven quite the durable fighter.

As proof that his journey has yet to be written in stone, this past year on a warm December day in Southern California Vladimir Matyushenko became a citizen of the United States of America. This Belarusian native is the traveled person in a far-off land of whom his boyhood mind dreamt.

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