For many years, Marat “Cobra” Gafurov was a dominant force in ONE Championship’s featherweight division. Now, he wants to re-establish himself in the hotly contested lightweight ranks.
After debuting in his new weight class at the start of 2020, the powerful Dagestani grappler will return to action against #5-ranked lightweight contender Lowen Tynanes at ONE: COLLISION COURSE this Friday, 18 December.
Fans already know what Gafurov is capable of inside the Circle, and if he can topple the unbeaten Hawaiian, he would surely put himself among the lightweight division’s elite.
Before the crucial mixed martial arts showdown at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, we’ve got seven interesting facts about the former ONE Featherweight World Champion.
#1 He Beat The Bullies
Though it’s hard to imagine it now, the young Gafurov was bullied in his childhood days.
When he moved from the rural village of Ishkarty to the Dagestan capital of Makhachkala, the abuse got worse because he was viewed as an “outsider.”
However, the fiery “Cobra” fought back and showed the bullies that he wouldn’t be their victim. And after standing up for himself, he made it is his goal to stand up for others who were less able to do it themselves.
#2 He Fell In Love With Martial Arts Through Movies
Like so many ONE stars, Gafurov was first turned on to martial arts through his love of films.
His favorite actors were Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and he would regularly watch their offerings at the local theater with his friends.
“When I was a kid, martial arts movies drew the biggest crowds in cinemas,” Gafurov says. “Those guys were my initial inspiration.”
#3 He Was Inspired By A Dagestani Hero
Along with his fictional heroes, “Cobra” was motivated by Dagestani mixed martial arts pioneer Magomedkhan “Volk Han” Gamzatkhanov.
“Volk Han” was a wrestler and sambo stylist who competed under the RINGS banner in Japan from the early ’90s to the early 2000s. For his part, Gafurov was amazed that one of his countrymen could compete at such a high level internationally – and it made him believe that he could do it too.
“He was my absolute hero,” Gafurov recalls. “It was almost surreal that back in the ’90s, someone from our part of the world could end up in Japan doing such cool stuff, and be a top athlete.”
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#4 A Late Start Didn’t Stop Him From Reaching The Top
Given the scuffles with his childhood tormentors and his love for martial arts films, it was inevitable that Gafurov would find his way into the dojo. However, he started relatively late compared to many of the lifelong wrestlers in his home nation.
“Cobra” was 15 years old when he first stepped foot inside Amanat Fight Club. He initially studied the striking art of wushu sanda – and he was hooked.
But while he enjoyed the stand-up game, Gafurov also sought out other styles to become a well-rounded martial artist. In the process, he fell in love with the submission-focused art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
#5 His List Of Accolades Is Incredible
Grappling and mixed-rules combat was clearly Gafurov’s forte, and he soon tasted success in various disciplines.
“Cobra” earned FILA World Championships in grappling and pankration, multiple Russian ADCC golds, Dagestani National BJJ Championships, and the M-1 Global Featherweight Title.
His biggest moments came in ONE Championship, however, when he submitted Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in just 41 seconds to win the ONE Interim Featherweight World Championship in September 2015 and then became the undisputed king by choking out Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa that November.
#6 He’s A ONE Record-Breaker
The Dagestani’s meteoric rise in ONE saw him claim multiple records — many of which he still holds.
He has the joint-most submission wins in ONE history (7), as well as the most submission wins (7), the joint-most World Title bouts (5), and the joint-most World Title defenses (3) in ONE featherweight history.
Gafurov’s colossal streak of six consecutive rear-naked choke victories is also unparalleled.
#7 He’s Priming The Next Generation
Though the 36-year-old is still competing at the pinnacle of mixed martial arts, he has started to develop the next generation of his family’s success.
Gafurov’s son has already begun his own journey in judo, wrestling, and pankration. “Cobra” believes those skills will set the youngster up for a strong future – even if he doesn’t make a career out of martial arts.
“I am training him for life. Sport taught me to be hardworking and focused,” Gafurov says. “These are good qualities to have in any profession. My son will choose to be whatever he wants to be.”