Many countries in the world see the sport of MMA as a niche market where only pockets of people watch and take notice, compared to mainstream sports such as Football/Soccer and other combat sports such as Boxing. Although promotions such as the UFC have helped to consistently bring in new fans to the sport, it always seems to have that hush-hush underground feel to it. However, one country in which MMA is on the rise and rapidly growing is Russia. Over the years there has been a significant growth in the Russia MMA scene where athletes would rather take up a career in MMA rather than the usual. So the flurry of fighters Russia are producing is no surprise. Russia has produced fantastic fighters in the past like all time great “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko and 24-0 UFC Lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. This breezes us to the topic of discussion today, where I will have a look at the top, up and coming Russian talent who you might not know outside the UFC and promotional rivals Bellator MMA and give you my thoughts.
With the talent in Russia growing; so are the promotions. The three big organisations are Absolute Championship Berkut also known as ACB, Fight Night Global (FNG) formerly known as Eurasia Fight Nights (EFN) and M-1 Global. They also have other promotions such as Akhmat WFCA and Octagon Fighting Sensation.
Now on to the fighters:
What better place to start than with the hardest hitting of them all, the Heavyweights. The 26 year old holds a professional record of 19-4. Goltsov is the current ACB Heavyweight Champion which makes him the baddest man of them all. He’s affiliated which the Sambo-Piter team. At only 26 years of age, I think Denis could be a force to be reckoned with and we could see him in the spotlight very soon
From Heavyweight to Flyweight we come to one of my favourite fighters on the list. At 24 year old, Askarov is already a champion with the promotion ACB. Recently defeating American Anthony Leone, he cemented his place as a top Russian Flyweight. Fighting out of the famous team, Fighting Eagle; he possesses a record of 9-0 every single victory coming before the final bell has sounded. With all this in mind, he is certainly one to keep tabs of constantly as he’s set to be a rapid riser all the way to the very top.
Another hot prospect is ACB’s, Petr Yan. At only 24 years old he is currently the ACB Bantamweight Champion after he defeated another name coming up on the list Magomed Magomedov. The pair of them have had two excellent wars and I would expect there to be a trilogy. Nicknamed “No Mercy”, he shows us this in his fights with his aggressive and bold style. He fights out of Tiger Muay Thai and MMA. Yan is certainly one to watch out for as he oozes bundles of potential.
At 24 years old, Rashid Yusupov is a hotly anticipated prospect. The Light Heavyweight has an unblemished record of 8-0 and fights out of team Gorets. He currently fights in M-1 where he is the Light Heavyweight Champion. With the UFC’s LHW division not looking so strong, I think I would a perfect addition to the promotion. Definitely, one to look out for.
Experienced before his years, Sarkerov is ready for the big time whether that be for a bigger Russian promotion or even UFC or Bellator. At only 26, Sarkerov has amassed an incredible record of 29-5. He is one of the many members of Golden Team. Currently fighting in the promotion Octagon Fighting Sensation, he is their Featherweight Champ where he the belt and has defended four times since. Surely now would be the best time to pick him up.
One who likes to get the job done quick is Abukar Yandiev, in all 10 of his professional fights he hasn’t gotten out of the 1st Round. The 29-year-old has a record of 9-1. With his team affiliation being Fight Or Die, you can see where the namesake style comes from. Fighting for M-1 he is their current Lightweight Champion. He’d be one of my picks to move promotions very soon in the future.
Abuev, the Fight Nights Global fighter fights out of team Sport Life. The Flyweight fighter has a record of 9-1 all of which were finishes before the last bell. With this type of finishing percentage, I would be amazed not to see him fighting in the UFC in the future. At only 25 years old he sure has a long time left in the fight game and a high ceiling for growth and improvements
The Perfect Mix
What I have noticed through reports; and seeing it for myself, is that these Russian promotions treat their fighters the right way. Good pay, bonus structure and general reliability means Russian fighters are always looking out for them. This is maybe why we’ve seen such a step rise in Russian MMA fighters moving to these promotions over the years, the promotions actually provide a sustainable and worthy living for the fighters while as you probably know, promotions such as the UFC only looking out for their “money making” fighters doesn’t give them the best of names. With this in mind, these top quality Russian fighters may sway towards staying with their Russian promotions rather than the UFC. With the dramatic growth in MMA, these promotions help fighters and promote all of them well; giving them the best fights available rarely giving them an easy test. Where again compared to the UFC, there has been many times fighters have had to promote themselves with little to no help from the organisation.
It’s also about global attention, for example being English means I am unable to watch Bellator via spike stream due to my location and TV due to a day maybe week delay. In comparison, ACB stream all of their action either through YouTube or Fite TV; which makes it much easier to access. Another thing the Russian promotions are doing well is that they are always building foundations on which to lay on, gaining fighters and gaining support through top quality events and service. They are constantly building for the future. Whereas the UFC seem to be pitching up these money fights, which at first glance seem interesting but after a while, you realise the farce and really you want to see the number 1 contender fighting the Champ.
Other honourable mentions:
At 23 years old he has a record of 11-0. The welterweight fighter fights out of Alligator gym. Fighting for ACB, he certainly is one to watch out for.
Another top Flyweight here. Gadzhiev has a 12-1 record and fights out of Krepost Fight Club. Currently fighting in ACB.
The current interim M-1 Bantamweight Champion, Evloev is undefeated with a record of 7-0. Fights out of Fight Club Nart.
Movlid holds a record of 12-0, the 26-year-old fights out of Fight Nights Team.He is Currently a Fight Nights Global fighter but has previously fought in One Championship.
Finishing where we started with a Heavyweight, Sergey is a scary fighter with most of his 10 victories coming by way of stoppage. He is currently undefeated and fights for Fight Nights Global. He’s affiliated with Fight Nights Team.
With MMA becoming a prominent sport in Russia, the typhoon of talent is clear to see. Expect to see more and more top quality vets and prospects over the years. Embrace them, cherish them and always remember; the Russians are willing to fight.