Dagestan was best known for its rugged terrain and tough wrestlers, but these days, the Russian republic’s mixed martial arts stars are representing their nation in front of a worldwide audience.
Despite having a population of just 3.1 million, the North Caucasian region punches above its weight when it comes to combat sports.
However, the future looks just as bright. Here are five more Dagestani phenoms who have World Title hopes in The Home of Martial Arts.
#1 Yusup Saadulaev
Third-ranked bantamweight contender Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev is one of the pioneering athletes from Dagestan in ONE.
Born in Khasavyurt, he started wrestling at the age of 12 and discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at 19 when he moved to the United States to study.
He started his professional mixed martial arts career in North America, competed in Japan, and then signed with ONE in 2012.
With a win, he might just earn a World Title shot in 2022.
#2 Dagi Arslanaliev
The division’s #3-ranked contender lost to then-titleholder Christian “The Warrior” Lee in the 2019 ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final, but his return to form at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS showed that he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Arslanaliev — who was born in Buynaksk — credits his upbringing for forging his warrior spirit and proudly carries the name “Dagi” as a tribute to his homeland.
Bringing a ONE World Title to Dagestan would make Arslanaliev’s people immensely proud, and the 27-year-old dynamo has newly crowned lightweight king Ok Rae Yoon in his sights.
#3 Murad Ramazanov
Unbeaten welterweight mixed martial artist Murad Ramazanov exploded onto the global stage with back-to-back wins in 2020, and he can add to his tally against his toughest foe to date at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II.
The Dagestan Fighter representative will square off against former ONE Welterweight World Champion Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam in a crucial contest that could see him enter the division’s upper echelon.
Ramazanov finished “Wolverine” Bae Myung Ho in his promotional debut back in February 2020 and then improved his overall record to 10-0 by dominating Hiroyuki “Japanese Beast” Tetsuka at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX III.
If he can take out a former ONE World Champion in Kadestam, the 26-year-old Makhachkala native will mark himself out as one of the biggest threats to reigning welterweight kingpin Kiamrian “Brazen” Abbasov.
#4 Gadjimurad Abdulaev
Against Kadestam, the Dagestani showcased the formidable wrestling his region is known for, but he also trained extensively in sanda when he lived in China – a skill set he can utilize in future bouts on the global stage.
With a pro record of 6-0, Abdulaev has already made an impression that goes beyond his experience on paper, and he’ll be looking to continue ascending when he returns to the Circle.
#5 Saygid Izagakhmaev
Though he’s yet to compete on the global stage, Saygid Izagakhmaev has already captured the attention of the international fan base.
That’s because he comes with high praise from one of the greatest mixed martial artists in history, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In fact, the now-retired World Champion was the person who officially announced that his friend and training partner had signed with ONE this past October.
The signing was a big deal, as Izagakhmaev boasts an impressive 19-2 record with 14 wins inside the distance. Although no date has been set for his promotional debut, expect him to make an immediate impact when that time comes.