August 2, 1930. It was a full 50 years before Sergei Kharitonov was born, but the date holds much significance in the Russian fighter’s life. It was on that day when a group of 12 men equipped with parachutes landed in the fields near Voronezh. It was the birth of the Russian Airborne Troops Division, also known as the “Blue Berets.” The day is even memorialized in Russia as Paratroopers’ Day. As a young man, some years later, Kharitonov joined this elite group.

Even then, he was already competing in combat sports. While serving, Kharitonov captured numerous hand-to-hand combat and sambo championships. He’s no longer in the Russian Army, but he credits his time there for providing him with the necessary psychological skills to succeed in combat.

Kharitonov (L) (James Law/GLORY)

Kharitonov (L) (James Law/GLORY)

These days, Kharitonov’s wars come inside the GLORY ring. On May 3, at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., the heavyweight fighter will return to action as part of a one-night, four-man tournament to determine the top heavyweight contender.

“It is a great honor for me to fight for GLORY, which does a great job promoting kickboxing,” Kharitonov told The MMA Corner. “I hope [the fans] will enjoy an entertaining, bright and intransigent fight.”

This will mark the 33-year-old’s fourth trip into the GLORY ring. The Russian joined the promotion in 2012. By that time, he already held a 3-2 mark as a kickboxer with stints under the K-1 and United Glory banners. On New Year’s Eve 2012, Kharitonov debuted with GLORY in a losing effort against Rico Verhoeven, who now stands as one of the top-ranked kickboxers in the promotion. Kharitonov bounced back with unanimous decision wins over Daniel Sam and, most recently, Jerome Le Banner. Now, he enters a tournament that also features the likes of Anderson “Braddock” Silva, Ben Edwards and Errol Zimmerman. Kharitonov’s first task is to dispose of the Brazilian, Silva.

“He is a decent and serious competitor, and I am glad that GLORY gave me the opportunity to fight him,” Kharitonov said.

If the Russian can get past Silva, he’ll have to return to the ring later in the evening for the heavyweight tourney’s championship bout, where he’ll meet the winner of the contest between Zimmerman and Edwards. So, does he have a preference as to which fighter stands across the ring?

“I do not choose contenders,” declared the former Blue Beret. “I will fight the winner. I believe that all of them are very serious rivals.”

Kharitonov has seen his share of serious rivals in his 14-plus years as a professional fighter. Long before he ever entered the world of kickboxing, Kharitonov was already an accomplished mixed martial artist. He made his pro MMA debut in 2000, and he stepped into the Pride ring for the first time in 2003 as a 5-0 prospect who had already battled his way to victory in two one-night tournaments.

Kharitonov went on to fight 11 times under the Pride banner. He defeated the likes of Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Semmy Schilt, Pedro Rizzo and current UFC heavyweight No. 1 contender Fabricio Werdum, and he suffered losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Aleksander Emelianenko. Since the shuttering of Pride, he has gone on to fight for a variety of promotions, including Dream and Strikeforce, where he topped former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski. However, there is one place where Kharitonov has never competed, and that’s the UFC Octagon. Many fighters would consider this to be a disappointing note on their career.

“No, I am absolutely not disappointed,” Kharitonov revealed. The Russian was rumored to be nearing a deal with the leading MMA promotion, but that may have been a case of wishful thinking on the part of fans. “We did not have any negotiations. I have a contract with GLORY and I am absolutely satisfied with it.”

Kharitonov (L) (James Law/GLORY)

Kharitonov (L) (James Law/GLORY)

Despite his contract with GLORY, Kharitonov does still compete in MMA between kickboxing outings, just not for the UFC. In between his loss to Verhoeven and his victory over Sam, the Russian scored a 34-second submission finish of John Delgado at the Russian MMA Championship. He returned to kickboxing in October 2013 with the win against Le Banner, then notched a TKO victory the very next month against Alexei Kudin at M-1 Challenge 43. Now, as he gears up for his GLORY 16 tournament appearance, he’s just over a month removed from a TKO victory over Tyler East in MMA action at Tech-Krep Fighting Championship, which took place in his native Russia.

Kharitonov’s schedule is nothing if not hectic. Some fighters might have issues dealing with such a high frequency of fights, and the transition between two different forms of combat is certainly not the easiest of undertakings.

“It is not difficult for me,” Kharitonov confessed. “I had a long break because of injuries, but I have recovered quite well and now I am in great shape.”

Though he’s more than willing to take on any challenge, whether in the realm of MMA or the world of kickboxing, the Russian certainly has his preferences.

“I would choose GLORY kickboxing, as I prefer to fight in a standing position,” Kharitonov admitted.

Of course, Kharitonov is not the only fighter with a foot in both of those combat sports worlds. He trains out of the Golden Glory gym, which is the former home of star kickboxer and mixed martial artist Alistair Overeem. The two big men have met twice before in MMA encounters, and each man holds a win. The first clash came in 2006 at Pride 31, where Kharitonov utilized his knees to score a first-round TKO. The rematch took place the next year under the K-1 HERO’s banner, and it was Overeem who scored the win, by way of knockout, in that battle. Perhaps there’s a rubber match on the horizon?

“I am friends with Alistair, and if I were offered a fight with him, well, why not? It is just sports,” Kharitonov said.

Perhaps it’s Kharitonov’s paratrooper mentality at work. He’s no longer fighting in life-or-death situations anymore, just sports. The Russian has proven to be just as elite in the world of sports, however. Now, he wants to take that one step further and prove that he can be lethal to any GLORY heavyweight who stands in his way.

Sergei would like to thank the Vitiaz organization, his team and his trainers, Roman Anuchin and Ruslan Kryvusha.