Ilja Dragunov Reflects On First Match With Carmelo Hayes, Says Hayes 'Proved Himself'

Ilja Dragunov reflects on his first match against Carmelo Hayes.

Hayes and Dragunov first went toe-to-toe at the Great American Bash premium live event on July 30, 2023. Hayes ended up coming out on top of the highly praised bout, which seemingly only fueled Dragunov more, as he went on to earn another shot at Hayes and the NXT Championship on the September 12 episode of NXT television.

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Now, Dragunov and Hayes will once again battle it out, with the second match happening at the upcoming No Mercy premium live event.

In a new interview with Fightful, Dragunov was asked about bringing out a different side in Hayes during their first encounter inside the squared circle.

"I think I bring out a lot of different things out of a lot of people because what I do in the ring is so entirely different compared to a lot of other different performers next to me. When I step into this ring will certainly feel something, because I feel something. Because as soon as I step into this ring everything is real to me, even before this. Everything is real to me. When I step in, I’m coming for a fight. I’m coming into break absolutely everything. The entire passion that I carry around with myself that everybody feels. Yeah, I bring different sides out of people because you need a lot to get me down. I’m not going to make it easy for you."

Dragunov was then asked if he thought that Hayes brought out a different side in him during their first bout.

"Most definitely. You look at the struggle that was there, you look at the entire back and forth between us—most definitely. Because he’s the champ. He needs to bring out different sides of different people. It is absolutely necessary. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be champion. He’s gotta prove himself towards me. He did, I think. The people were absolutely excited to see that match that you can just hear the noise in the arena. There is something that people, I think, absolutely remember."

Elsewhere in the interview, Dragunov talked about the possibility of working for NXT Europe. Fans can learn more by clicking here.

Fans can see the full lineup for the upcoming No Mercy premium live event by clicking here.

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