PeSzy: Rustam – you've fought thousands of duels. Won and lost. Let's begin with the losses. Which opponent surprised you the most? You expected to win but you lost. Who was it, where, when, how did the fight go? And about the wins too. Which successful duel with which opponent turned out much easier than you expected?
Rustam Babaiev: One of the most unexpected duels, especially of the last few years... Was the one with Alex Kurdecha. A year and a half earlier I beat him at a Polish event. It was quite easy. Of course I realised that he has great potential and throughout that time he could have put on much more weight and strength. And that's what happened. In the moment of the duel his weight had to be at least 150 kg. But I was still sure of my victory. I didn't manage to win. And the winning duel that went much easier than I expected? It was the fight with Todd Hutchings in 2017. We fought only once before, in 2006 at Zloty Tur. And until 2017 we hadn't had the chance to meet again. He, on the other hand, was able to beat many respectable athletes. After the duel I realised I'm a very unwelcome rival to him.
PeSzy: During which competitions, tournaments, duels did you feel the spectators' support? Does the applause of the fans help you a lot? Have you ever fought “at foreign grounds” where the spectators wanted you to lose? What did it feel like?
Rustam Babaiev: All of this has happened before. The spectators screamed with all their might in support of myself, it happened the most in the open [category], especially at Zloty Tur when I started fighting with someone more renowned in the heavy weight. The spectators also sometimes happened to be against me, mostly at the World Championships or European Championships, especially in the finals with Russians. It's always nice when the majority supports you. Though, to be honest, the instances when they are against me give me even more strength. For some reason it feels much better to win against “a crowd of people” than against one athlete.
PeSzy: Have you ever felt the need to drop “this damn armwrestling” and pick up something else? If yes – why and for what reasons?
Rustam Babaiev: When I kept performing and I didn't get to take breaks so I couldn't really rest for a few years, this was when I was debating quitting armwrestling. But I soon realised that it was just exhaustion. Generally, armwrestling is the basis of my life and I understand that I can't escape from it.
PeSzy: Armwrestling keeps evolving. Can you identify certain “eras” or the groundbreaking moments from your experience?
Rustam Babaiev: For me, armwrestling can be divided into three eras. The first one is the time when I picked up armwrestling and was starting to gain experience as a junior, and my first steps in the sport for adults. During this time there were champions and respectable athletes of our sport whose names I still remember. The second era began when I started winning. There were special moments when I started winning with the Champions. This era lasted until the moment I quit the sport. And the third one, the era of my comeback after a long break, which is still going on at this day.
PeSzy: Thank you very much!
Rustam Babaiev: Greetings to the readers!