Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov only has one thing on his mind.
The former ONE Flyweight World Champion is desperate to get his belt back – but not merely for his own personal glory.
“I need to get a shot at the ONE Flyweight World Title,” he says.
“I don’t fight for myself – I fight to represent Kazakhstan on the international arena and to promote my country. I want to show the character of my nation – we are real warriors.”
The 31-year-old proudly flies his nation’s flag in his corner before every contest, and never fails to display the kind of warrior spirit that has defined its people throughout history.
Kazakhstan owes a debt to the brave spirit of its nomadic batyrs (brave warriors), who traveled, protected, and expanded territory across the Eurasian steppes for centuries.
Though the country is at peace now, for hundreds of years, its people needed to know how to defend themselves. They used weapons, as well as their own martial art, which has influenced Khazaks’ love for combat sports in the modern age.
Former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat "The Kazakh" Akhmetov returns to action on 22 September!Jakarta | 22 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneconquest18
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, September 3, 2018
“Our national martial art is called zhekpezhek, or ‘one on one,'” explains Akhmetov.
“It combines elements of kickboxing, wrestling and judo. It’s like the mixed martial arts of Central Asia, so fighting is in our blood.
“People in Kazakhstan are not aggressive, we are generally conflict-adverse people, but we love fighting sports. Amateur and pro boxing are very popular, so is Greco-Roman wrestling, and of course, mixed martial arts.”
One of the world’s most famous boxing World Champions – Gennady “GGG” Golovkin – hails from Kazakhstan, but Akhmetov insists the sweet science cannot match his sport for popularity.
That is a point of pride for him and his teammates at Alash Pride in Almaty – the modern-day batyrs – who he says played a pivotal role in mixed martial arts’ growth in the past decade.
“Probably half of the 17 million population follows the sport – watching live and recorded broadcasts, and actively commenting on social media,” he says.
“There was no mixed martial arts scene here until we formed the Alash Pride team in 2010. There was a couple of Kazakh fighters on the international stage, but nobody knew of them.”
In the beginning, the collective boasted many athletes who were skilled in specific areas – like Akhmetov, who is a two-time national Greco-Roman wrestling champion – but it was lacking the know-how to match their peers around the world when it came to combining disciplines.
However, they had the ambition and hunger to grow and succeed, and their abilities evolved rapidly. As the popularity of mixed martial arts exploded, the team was at the forefront in Kazakhstan.
No one has done more to raise its profile than “The Kazakh,” who dominated on the regional scene, and then claimed World Title gold when he defeated Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes in his first ONE Championship appearance.
“I am proud to be a pioneer of mixed martial arts in Kazakhstan. Together with fighters from Alash Pride, we kickstarted mixed martial arts here,” he says, proudly.
“We fought in some major shows, but what’s more important, we motivated a younger generation, we shared what we learned with them, and now they will show the world what Kazakhstan mixed martial artists are capable of.
“I want to show the local fighters the level of ONE events, and motivate them to train more – to have goals [in the sport].”
A victory against McLaren will only be one step on Akhmetov’s road back to the gold.
If he can get his hand raised at ONE: A NEW ERA, he will still have to win two more bouts to claim the World Grand Prix crown. After that, the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion – Moraes, who is enjoying his third reign – will be waiting.
Despite the challenges ahead, “The Kazakh” is confident. He is motivated to bring honor to a nation whose citizens will support him every step of the way.
Tokyo | 31 March | 3:30PM | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneera19