Igor Zinoviev, 53, is a former UFC fighter and former bodyguard to deceased billionaire and accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. He was recently interviewed by New York Magazine and came off as very guarded, nervous, and worried.
This was in stark contrast to an unpublished interview Zinoviev gave The Daily Beast back in 2015 where he was forthcoming with his assertions and opinions about Epstein. Journalist M.L. Nestel brought up Zinoviev’s past quotes only for the former UFC fighter to categorically deny them.
“In our conversation in 2015, you described his relationship with teenage girlfriends:’So many time I tried to stop him. I try to tell tell him my opinion about that. He don’t listen to me. That’s the reason why I’m not working for him no more. I make him do that — to let me go.’ Do you remember saying that?” Nestel asked Zinoviev.
“It’s not the teenage girls. I never see the teenage girls. I tell you I never see teenage girls. Plenty of times when I work for him I never see anything unproper or teenage girls around him. That’s what I say.” The former bodyguard replied.
It was one of several times Nestel tried to get Zinoviev to expand on his past answers on Epstein and was stonewalled. According to Netel, “He also seemed, it is safe to say, quite nervous about saying anything at all.”
“Nobody ever wanted to offer me money. I don’t care about money. I want everybody to just leave me alone.” Zinoviev also says that the media has been calling him a “mobster”. It’s unclear whether Zinoviev is scared of repercussions from talking to the media or sick of the attention.
Igor is asked if he is “worried about the local cops,” he responds in a very cryptic manner. “Listen, you’re really smart and I’m not going to offer that over the phone right now, okay? You’re really smart. You have no idea. Please!”
When asked to elaborate, Zinoviev says, “I can’t explain you. I can’t explain you over the phone any of this.” He tells the interviewer “don’t put yourself in trouble” and “be careful” but doesn’t reveal why.
Zinoviev grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia before moving to the United States to pursue a fighting career in the mid-90s. After his fighting career ended, he became Epstein’s bodyguard, trainer, and personal driver.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Igor Zinoviev Was Epstein’s Driver During His 13 Month Prison Sentence
Zinoviev became Epstein’s personal driver responsible for driving him around Palm Beach during his jail sentence. Epstein was convicted of procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18 and sentenced to 13 months in prison but was allowed to leave on a work release program 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
According to New York Magazine, Zinoviev “traveled with him 24/7” including on his plane to New Mexico and lived in his guest house in Palm Beach.
In the unpublished interview with M.L. Nestel in 2015, Zinoviev allegedly said “It could be tricky you know. Normally he always checks his newspapers — ‘Nothing about me?’ I say, ‘No!’ He say, ‘They forget about me?’” And when the interviewer mentioned Epstein was in trouble for messing with teenage girls, he said: “I’m not surprised at all. I’m just surprised how low he can be outside the real world. Someday is going to call him and it will be real jail. He have so much money he can pay it off. Me personally, if I caught him with my daughter or something do that — I’m not going to go to police. I do something else. Much worse. That guy could try to sue me and manipulate the situation with his money. That’s the American way. I know he screwed up a lot of fashion girls also. That’s a different story. [Laughs.]”
During that same interview, Zinoviev also allegedly talked about Epstein’s relationship with the police and said, “He always do something wrong. There was some nights in question.” he told Nestel, “There was at home arrest and police, before they come to the house, they call him and tell him they coming in at eight o’clock in the morning. It’s all corruption you know. It’s all bullshit.”
It’s unclear what caused Zinoviev to change his story, especially since Epstein is now deceased and his most of his accusers have come forward.
2. He Was Part of a Special Forces Squad in the Soviet Army
Zionviev was a skilled boxer and judo practitioner in his early years, winning several competitions and attracting the attention of the Soviet army. When he reached military age, he was taken into the Soviet army and trained to join an elite special forces squad.
“It was like a SWAT team here,” he told Village Voice in a 2003 interview. Zionviev says he spent two years “defending airports against terrorist attacks” and busting “illegal-immigration rings” before being moved into the municipal police force to do the same kind of work.
3. He Got His Start in an Underground Fight Club in New York City For “Rich Men with Cigars”
After the fall of communism, Zinoviev had a chance meeting with an American businessman in a Turkish bath house. He doesn’t reveal exactly who the businessman is but says he told him “You should come to America,” and that he “could get you some fights.”
The “fights” turned out to be an underground, bare knuckle, no holds barred fights in warehouses around Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Zinoviev told the Village Voice they were entertainment for “rich people with cigars,” He participated in 10 of these fights, going 9-1 in the process. When asked by Village Voice about the atmosphere at the fights, he brings up the movie Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and says “That’s the way it was.”
4. He Had One Fight in the UFC and Suffered an Injury That Ended His Career
Igor “Houdini” Zinoviev faced off against Frank Shamrock at UFC 16 to unite the UFC and Extreme Fighting middleweight titles. Unfortunately for Zinoviev, the fight only lasted 22 seconds before he was picked up by Shamrock and drilled into the canvas onto his shoulder and head, breaking his collarbone and knocking him unconscious.
His injuries were so severe that he never fought professionally again. He retired with 4 wins (3 TKO, 1 submission) and 1 loss. His knockout at the hands of Shamrock is regularly listed as one of the most brutal in UFC history.
5. He Says Somebody Helped Epstein Commit Suicide
In the recent interview with New York Magazine, Zinoviev is asked what he thinks of Epstein’s recent suicide. “Are you sure you want to hear what I am going to think?” He replies, “Somebody helped him to do that.” The interviewer confirms what he is saying “You think somebody helped him kill himself?” and Zinoviev says “Yeah.”
When pressed as to why he thinks that, he shuts down and says they’re going “a little too deep”.
Zinoviev lived with Epstein for “five or six years” and when asked how he feels about the suicide said, “I’m not sad. I mean, I didn’t have anything against him, like a bad thing, you know? I don’t care about his life completely. I don’t give a, let’s say, like, crap about how he die, how he live, or how he’s managed.”