The Dagestan native started training as a young child and then attended a school that was focused on combat sports from the age of 12.
Throughout all of that time, the 24-year-old – who will face Christian “The Warrior” Lee in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final at ONE: CENTURY PART I – developed his sense of respect, and why it is essential to success in the Circle.
“I believe that respect is paramount in martial arts – it’s a cornerstone of training and living as a martial artist,” he says.
“Dagi” admits he was not always this way. As a youngster, he was hot-tempered, stubborn, and did not always listen to his coaches, but that has changed over time.
“I made many mistakes when I was younger, and I got told off many times,” he explains.
”However, since I have been living in the gym my whole life, I had time to make amends and to improve.”
Since he recognized the error of his ways, Arslanaliev has made sure he checks his ego at the door when he arrives at the gym, and follows his coaches’ wishes to the letter. That goes beyond just doing what he is told – giving 100-percent effort, and even arriving on time is just as important.
Respect also applies to the gym itself. In fact, that is one of the things that the Istanbul resident takes the most pride in.
“The mats should always be clean!” he says. “I can’t stand it when guys walk into the training area with their outdoor shoes on – who knows where they have been?
“If you don’t respect the mats, you don’t respect the gym. In this case, there is no point to even start talking about respect for opponents or teammates.”
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The way he treats his teammates is another key part of the way Arslanaliev conducts himself in the gym.
Even though he is now one of the world’s top lightweights, “Dagi” still does everything he would have done as an up-and-comer who was learning his trade and working his way up the ranks. That means he has no qualms about doing the unglamorous jobs.
“I compete against some big opponents now, but in the gym, I am one of the guys,” he says.
“It means that all the rules apply to me, too. I try to be on time, I help to clean the gym – all the usual stuff.”
It also means that although he is capable of tossing half of the people he rolls with across the mats, he does not take any liberties. In the Circle, “Dagi” is a dangerous finisher with a 100-percent stoppage rate, but among his training partners, he helps to create a safe, supportive environment for everyone.
“Our training is based on trust, and from trust comes brotherhood,” he adds. “Without respect, there can be no trust, no good training, and no winning.”
His approach means that he has little time for anyone that does not share his values, but that does not mean he will greet them with hostility.
Arslanaliev’s love for martial arts and the values it promotes means he will try to help them see the error of their ways, but if they cannot, he will not allow them to pollute his circle of friends and confidants.
“If someone is unreasonable, I just leave the room – I don’t want to be involved,” he offers.
“I try to surround myself with good people, so it rarely happens, but if someone talks rubbish or is unfair, I try to keep it cool and stay respectful to make him understand what level of behavior I expect.
“If it doesn’t work, I warn a person about the consequences. If they stay the same, I ignore them in the future – it usually hurts more.”
The same is true for opponents that do not show respect, and talk trash – something he sees as a sign of weakness.
Fortunately, that has not been an issue during his career in The Home Of Martial Arts, but he has seen enough disrespectful exchanges in other organizations to know he does not want any part of it.
“I try and keep a friendly and respectful relationship with my opponents,” he says. “At the end of the day, we are in the same boat.”
That is why he feels only positive emotions to his rival at ONE: CENTURY – particularly because he stepped in on short notice to replace the injured Eddie Alvarez.
However, even though he admires Lee, that will not stop him from doing everything in his power to knock him out or submit him inside the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
“Of course I am glad that he accepted the fight, and that I still have the fight on,” says Arslanaliev.
“I have nothing but respect for him, but it doesn’t change my training and my plan to win against him. I still want to beat him in Tokyo, with all my respect.”
- Watch PART I in USA on 12 October at 8pm EST and PART II on 13 October at 4am EST
- Watch PART I in India on 13 October at 5:30am IST and PART II at 1:30pm IST
- Watch PART I in Indonesia on 13 October at 7am WIB and PART II at 3pm WIB
- Watch PART I in Singapore on 13 October at 8am SGT and PART II at 4pm SGT
- Watch PART I in the Philippines on 13 October at 8am PHT and PART II at 4pm PHT
- Watch PART I in Japan on 13 October at 9am JST and PART II at 5pm JST
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.