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Wrestling / Andrei Kopylov

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Watch out for a leglock.
"His kansetsu-waza is one of the best in the world. His stamina, unfortunately, is not."
Kenichi Takayagi, Japanese RINGS commentator.

Andrei Kopylov is a Russian sambist, professional wrestler and Mixed Martial Arts fighter. He started his career as a regular sportsman, but he switched to the martial art of sambo, and he proved to be a rising star when he tapped out his own coach after only some months of training. Soon he was competing at national scale, winning medals and championships at two weight categories, but his plans to challenge for the world title were derailed by the political situation of USSR. For that reason, Kopylov left sambo behind and embraced professional wrestling, joining Akira Maeda in his promotion Fighting Network RINGS. He would become an instant fan favourite for his ridiculously anodine looks and no less ridiculously brilliant grappling, and RINGS's transition to MMA only served to propel him even higher with an outstanding performance at the first King of Kings Tournament. However, the age and scars soon took their price, and Kopylov wandered through RINGS brands until joining Volk Han to form the famous Russian Top Team, mentoring dudes like Fedor Emelianenko and Sergei Kharitonov.

"The Bear's Tropes":

  • Acrofatic: Downplayed, but still there. Kopylov was stout and didn't look very agile, but he was fast over his feet and able to dive for flying leglocks with surprising ease.
  • Affectionate Nickname: "Kopylov-Sensei" by the RINGS Japan guys.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: His fighting style, nicknamed "Kopylov Yoiken" ("Kopylov's Drunken Boxing") by the commentators, involved overwhelming his opponent with submission attempts in order to end the bout as soon as possible. He once had Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira of all people stuck in the defending role for one round.
  • The Apprentice: To Alexander Fedorov.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: A main trainer in Russian Top Team and a foe to fear.
  • Badass Teacher: To names like Fedor Emelianenko, his brother Alexander, Sergei Kharitonov and others as a trainer in the Russian Top Team. He also trained the RINGS Japan guys in sambo.
  • Captain Ersatz: The character Antoine Kovirov from High School Exciting Story: Tough was a barely disguised copy of Kopylov.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Was said to be enormously strong, which was especially surprising given that he didn't look very muscular, and it gained him his bear nickname.
  • Confusion Fu: An unintentional example. Opponents were wary of him even although Kopylov appeared in the verge of fainting, knowing that a limb grabbed and a burst of energy was everything Kopylov needed to screw them.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: His matches against Volk Han, and why not, his fights against Minotauro Nogueira and Sperry.
  • Curb-Stomp Cushion: Even after he spent all his energy in the first round against Nogueira and was dominated at the second, Kopylov still recovered enough gas to hit a tawara gaeshi as a last showing of defiance.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: With his receding hairline, flabby belly and sleazy mustache, he looked virtually everything but a fighter, and certainly did not have a fighter's athleticism, but Kopylov wasn't a sambo champion for nothing and had one of the sharpest grappling attacks on the circuit.
  • David Versus Goliath: He was much heavier than Ricardo Arona in their match, but it can be said that Kopylov was the David here considering his weight was mostly fat while Arona was younger, made of pure roided muscle and even stronger than the already powerful Russian. It was exemplified every time Arona shot for a double leg takedown and Andrei was thrown around like a ragdoll.
  • Death or Glory Attack: Andrei's submissions were elite level and could hook almost everybody if he nailed them quickly, but his stamina was downright abysmal, so if he failed at ending the match in under three minutes, he was screwed.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Inverted. He wore wrestling shoes in MMA if the ruleset allowed it.
  • The Dreaded: After watching Kopylov in action, even the reigning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners of the time realized that trying to engage him on the ground was playing Russian roulette at its finest. Minotauro Nogueira ditched groundwork after a round struggling with Andrei on the mat, preferring instead trying luck on the stand-up despite not knowing if he could best him there, and Nogueira's trainer and multiple world champion Mario Sperry literally panicked out during his match with Kopylov when he felt him grabbing his leg.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: A rather positive example. After his shocking victory over Castello Branco, Brazilian people nicknamed him "Vovo Sapateiro" ("Grandpa Shoemaker") due to his wizened looks and footlock expertise.
  • Escape Artist: Got threatened with several rear naked chokes and armbars in his match with Ricardo Arona, and escaped unscathed from all of them.
  • Eye Scream: Suffered an eye injury in his match with Ricardo Arona.
  • Foil: To Volk Han. While Han was an athletic military sambist with a penchant for controlling strategies, Kopylov was an overweighted artisan specialized in short bursts of explosiveness. Their looks were also the opposite, with Volk being slender and handsome in contrast with the chubby and bald Andrei. Finally, Han was nicknamed The Wolf while Kopylov was The Bear.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had he reacted a second before, he would have a kneebar victory over Mario Sperry in his record.
    • His fight with Minotauro Nogueira was really close, with them evenly matched on the ground and despite being allowed only palm strikes to the face due to forgoing gloves, matched and sometimes even got the better of Nogueira in the stand up, and that was after the first round where he used up all his stamina. In fact only one of the judges, Jon Bluming, gave the win to Nogueira, the others thought it was a draw.
  • Glass Cannon: Stamina example, as opposed to defense. Kopylov was actually as difficult to submit as good submitting people, and he didn't lack toughness either, but he lacked the cardio to follow up with his offense through the matches.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Aside from his sambo, Kopylov had relatively good hands.
  • Hero Killer: At the time, Leonardo Castello Branco was a rising star in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having won the world championships and even traded victories with the mighty Ricardo Liborio. Then he was pitted against Andrei Kopylov, and the results are history.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Volk Han. He made his debut against Han, was his main training partner in RINGS Russia and Russian Top Team and even made an instructional video together titled "Command Sambo."
  • Husky Russkie: Subverted again, as his looks were rather atypical for your classic hulking Russian, but he had the skills to go along.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Had the unfortunate tendency to lose matches by premature stoppages or petty cuts despite being still functional.
  • I Know Sambo: As said, a multiple sambo champion. He also had somewhat of a background in boxing.
  • Instant Expert: As mentioned, Kopylov tapped his own master, who was a sambo champion himself, after mere months of training. He was 17 at the time.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Who would have thought that a fighter who looked, moved and punched like an octogenarian could submit people in under a minute?
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Subverted - he was very strong, but got tired easily.
  • Nerves of Steel: Having Ricardo Arona hooked to their back would have scared everybody, but Kopylov was almost more concerned over catching his breath than having to defend those annoying choke attempts.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tended to elicit this reaction on his opponents when they realized how good he was on the ground. Averted with Castelo Branco, who didn't realize it until it was too late.
  • One-Hit Kill: His specialty. He submitted Leonardo Castello Branco in 16 seconds (becoming the first Western fighter in submitting a BJJ black belt) and later Ricardo Fyeet in half of the time.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Wore purple tights in the later part of his time in RINGS and in his MMA fights. He wore black tights and kneeboots in his earlier appearances in RINGS though.
  • Red Baron: "Shinigami Sambist", "Russia no Higuma" ("The Russian Brown Bear").
  • The Rival: With Lithunian sambist Richardas Rocevičius during his sambo years, they traded wins in the 1986 and 1987 USSR Championships.
  • Stone Wall: Once Kopylov switched to defense move after spending all his energy, neither Minotauro Nogueira nor Ricardo Arona could snatch a submission from him.
  • Stout Strength: He had the RINGS Russia trademark thick waist and was freakishly strong as well. He was a lot slimmer when he first debuted in RINGS however.
  • Stronger with Age: Started MMA at 34 (not particularly old, but still quite old compared to the average debutant) and shocked everybody.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: His sambo master was his girlfriend's father who got him interested in sambo, and Kopylov once actually beat him fair and clean. Considering that coach was the famous Alexander Fedorov, it was quite a feat.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Is the performer compared to Volk Hanís mixture of the two and Nikolai Zouev as the pure technician. This is due to his simpler, yet explosive style of sambo, his tendency to use pro wrestling-like attacks and his over-selling.
  • Theatrics of Pain: Notable among the RINGS guys. He would grunt in pain loudly and display that he was clearly in pain when he was in a submission and would breath very heavily due to his poor stamina in every match he was in. His grunts became quieter in his later career in RINGS, but he still displayed that submissions hurt him and his stamina only got worse.
  • °Three Amigos!: Was part of the Russian "B" team along with Nikolai Zouev and Vladimir Klementiev for the World Mega Battle Tournament of 1998.
  • Weight Loss Horror: During his sambo years in 1989 till 1991, he had to cut 13 to 14 kg of his natural weight 5 times each year to compete in the under 100kg division. This exhausted him greatly and he once fainted during a match, so he started competing in the over 100kg division after that.
  • Worthy Opponent: Apparently, this was the Brazilians's opinion of him due to his grappling feats.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: He once tried a dropkick on Chris Dolman and once cleanly connected with a running enzuigiri of all things on Pavel Orlov and even got him in a single leg Boston Crab. He also once tried an abisegiri or rolling heel kick on Mitsuya Nagai.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Unfamiliar with striking on the ground due to the RINGS ruleset, Kopylov tried to turtle up against Sperry in PRIDE, thinking he would go for submissions. It was an error, as Sperry didn't want the words "Kopylov" and "submissions" in the same sentence and instead opted to kick him in the face.