Aziz Pahrudinov (20-0-1) has finally made it to the global stage for martial arts.
For the past nine years, the Dagestani juggernaut has demolished his competition, and now, he has proudly joined ONE Championship, which has become incredibly popular in his homeland.
“ONE is well known in Dagestan because of former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov, so I did not think twice about signing with them,” the 29-year-old says.
”The contract with ONE is a great opportunity to fight around the world, and I am excited about my new journey in Asia.”
That journey officially begins on Friday, 27 July.
While Pahrudinov draws an immensely difficult task in his highly-anticipated promotional debut, he is supremely confident in his explosive skill set. He believes he is destined for martial arts success.
Raised in a small village by a father who supported the family as a teacher and a mother who was a homemaker, Pahrudinov – along with his older brother and younger brother – believes combat sports are in his blood.
“We have had a long history of warfare on our land,” he explains.
“Generations of men grew up learning how to fight for their lives, so it is no surprise wrestling, sambo, and mixed martial arts are really popular in Dagestan.”
As a child, he participated in some friendly neighborhood tussles, but his formal martial arts training did not begin until he was 16.
He relocated to Buynaksk in order to attend university, but his attention quickly shifted away from his studies. He linked up with a relative who opened the door to the world of martial arts.
“I came to study for college, however, my uncle immediately got me into boxing. After a year, I took up combat sambo, and then mixed martial arts,” says Pahrudinov, who views the latter sport as the pinnacle of all martial arts.
“To succeed in mixed martial arts, you must perfect all aspects of your arsenal – from striking and wrestling, to stamina and ground control.
“Honestly, I was a scrapper as a kid. I fought so much – several times a day, sometimes – so a fighting career appealed to me from the start.”
Around that time, his older brother moved to the Russian capital of Moscow, where he began coaching at a mixed martial arts gym, and developed relationships with many key players in the national combat sports scene.
Through those connections, Pahrudinov was introduced to a few matchmakers, and he was invited to display his skills in tournaments. He became a stand-out performer, and won a plethora of titles like the WAFC Russian Pankration Championship and the Combat Sambo World Cup.
By 2010, he had decided to focus on his mixed martial arts endeavors.
”It was time to make more money,” he says, bluntly. “I had a family to support.”
That February, four months before his 21st birthday, he began his quest to become the best lightweight in the world so he could give his loved ones the life they wanted.
Of Pahrudinov’s 20 professional victories, 19 of them have ended via stoppage – 15 in the first round. The only blemish on his record is a draw in his sixth professional bout.
Now, in his first outing for ONE Championship, he has drawn a tough assignment in Folayang.
The Filipino hero captured 11 major wushu medals, including three golds in international competition, before he transitioned his superb striking to the cage. His dynamic skills took him to the ONE Lightweight World Championship, which he won from Japanese icon Shinya Aoki in November 2016.
In May, six months after losing the belt, “Landslide” returned to action with a new fire.
At ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS, the Team Lakay veteran dominated undefeated Russian Kharun “The Predator” Atlangeriev, as he beat his rival in every area to earn a unanimous decision.
Folayang will undoubtedly look to repeat the feat on home soil with thousands of his countrymen cheering him on inside the Mall Of Asia Arena, and millions more watching throughout the Philippines and beyond.
However, Pahrudinov is not fazed by the Baguio City hero. Though the Dagestani may not have the same backing as the Team Lakay icon, he believes he has the talent, the mindset, and the tools to leave Manila with his undefeated record intact.
“I know he will try and exchange punches with me, but I am confident I can stand against this guy,” he says.
“This will be a test for my character. I belong to a small Avar nation that lives up in the mountains, and being tough is something people in my part of the world do really well.”
Manila | 27 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Facebook: Prelims LIVE | Twitter: Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onekings18