Murad Ramazanov is another elite product of the Dagestani mixed martial arts scene who has his eyes on a ONE World Title, and he could take a step closer to promotional gold if he defeats one of the hottest MMA prospects in the world today.
The 27-year-old wrestler takes on Roberto Soldic in the Croatian’s promotional debut at ONE on Prime Video 5: De Ridder vs. Malykhin, and a victory over “Robocop” could potentially make Ramazanov the top contender in the welterweight division.
Although he has a tough challenge to get through, the surging Russian is ready to make a statement when he steps into the Circle at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Before he faces Soldic on Friday, December 2, live in U.S. primetime, find out how Ramazanov’s competitive spirit was forged in one of the greatest hubs of modern-day combat sports.
A Content Childhood In Dagestan
Dagestan’s tough terrain breeds tough people, but Ramazanov admits that he was one of the fortunate ones from his region while growing up.
He came from a close, middle-class family in the capital of Makhachkala, where his father ran a successful shoe business and his mother tended to him and his siblings.
“I grew up in a well-to-do family, the youngest of three kids. I have a brother and a sister. I was a late child. The age difference [between me and] my sister is 15 years, and with my brother, 16 years. Of course, I was spoiled as the youngest kid.
“I was a naughty, slightly cocky child, and my parents let me get away with quite a lot. But my parents gave me a good foundation in life. I understood early in life what was good and what was bad. They taught me to treat others with respect.”
With the sea and the mountains within reach, Ramazanov grew up both in the outdoors and on the streets, where he could burn his energy.
However, things weren’t so good when he was sitting inside a classroom, but fortunately his love for being active helped him find a purpose to pursue in life.
“I used to play outside with friends. We had sleepovers, played soccer, watched movies, sometimes we fought. I used to wrestle in the streets with other boys — it was normal.
“I wasn’t a very good student because when I got bored I couldn’t sit still, be diligent, and learn. When bored, I couldn’t make an effort. It’s good that I found my place early enough in sports.”
From Boxing To Wrestling And Beyond
Before he found his passion in wrestling, Ramazanov started out in boxing. Picking up “the sweet science” at the age of 10, he won some regional accolades before drifting away from the sport.
With an admittedly short attention span, he got bored and lost the love for boxing training, but he wasn’t yet ready to practice the local pastime of freestyle wrestling either, despite his former wrestler father trying to nudge him in that direction.
“Until the age of 12, my father could not get me into a wrestling gym, although I was always physically fit.
“Freestyle wrestling is our region’s number-one sport. Many Olympic champions come from the region. But at that time I didn’t want to do it because of the way old-school coaches were with their students.
“They could beat them with a rope, be very rude, shout, pull their ears. I was not used to this kind of treatment. My father raised me only by example and conviction. He always treated himself and others with respect.”
However, a new coach soon piqued Ramazanov’s interest in Greco-Roman wrestling, and it was through this new mentor that he found his calling in combat sports.
Motivated by a coach that resonated with him, the young Russian had a clear aptitude in his new endeavor and went on to win a slew of regional, national, and international competitions.
“When I was 12 years old, my father took me to Greco-Roman wrestling where there was a younger coach. He had a different approach. My father told me that I could train for a week, and if I did not like it, then I could quit. But I really got into it quickly.
“[Greco-Roman] wrestling classes were completely different. My new coach, Ponomarev, knew how to explain everything in a semi-playful way. He knew how to find a key to each of us.”
The Switch To MMA
Ramazanov’s wrestling success caught the eyes of scouts from a famous sports boarding school in Moscow, and he made the big decision to move away from home to give it his all.
However, when things went downhill, he returned home and found the style that would change his life completely.
“When I came back from Moscow and had a summer break from the Greco-Roman wrestling club, I decided to join my friends for grappling and jiu-jitsu classes.
“I used to pass by their gym on the way to wrestling. Yusup Saadulaev was a coach, many MMA fighters frequented the gym, and I could see them training through the massive front window. I had always thought it would be interesting to train there.”
However, mixed martial arts didn’t have the same prestige as Greco-Roman wrestling, and Ramazanov’s parents questioned whether this was the right move for him, but he had already fallen in love with the sport and there was no turning back.
“In general, my father supported me and believed in me, but there were times when I felt like [my parents] abandoned me. I don’t blame them – I used to lose a lot.
“My mother cried sometimes when I returned home with a forehead completely blue from punches. She would say, ‘Did you quit wrestling to be hit in the head like this?’ My parents could not even understand what I was doing, they did not believe me, but I told them that I would achieve something.
“At that time, my cousin Timur Valiev [and future MMA World Champion] Khabib [Nurmagomedov] started rising to fame. They were my role models. Looking at them, I started believing in building a career just like them. Suddenly, it all seemed possible.”
Stepping Onto The Big Stage
It wasn’t their first choice, but Ramazanov’s parents got on board when they saw how much their son loved MMA, and how much success he was starting to have.
After moving into the pro ranks, the Dagestani athlete worked his way to a perfect 8-0 slate to earn his call up to The Home of Martial Arts, and this vindicated his choices when he stepped into the Circle for the first time.
“Before I signed with ONE, I had followed them for a while because I liked the tough rules, and because guys from my gym like Marat Gafurov and Yusup Saadulaev fought there.
“When I went to Singapore for my debut, I was impressed by how the staff treated us athletes, and how we were greeted by [ONE Chairman and CEO] Chatri Sityodtong.”
Now it’s the ONE Welterweight World Championship that’s on top of his agenda, and a commanding performance against Soldic would put him right in the mix for a shot at the new king, Christian Lee.
Owning a perfect 3-0 slate in the promotion, Ramazanov feels ready to go for gold now, but he’s also happy to make his claim undeniable by taking out one of the hottest properties in the sport in his next outing.
“I think I deserved [the World Title shot after beating Zebaztian Kadestam], but if the company’s management decided that I needed to smash another guy on the way to the top, it’s okay.
“I think one more fight and I should be given a title shot.”
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