By Michael Clifton
The Kingdom of Bahrain currently sits atop the IMMAF national rankings list. The talent-rich Bahraini squad contains several notable names, none more so than that of 24 year-old Ramazan Gitinov.
The Dagestan-born athlete is the reigning men’s welterweight champion. His impressive performances have earned him the No.1 ranked position in the senior pound-for-pound rankings and a reputation for being one of the brightest stars in the IMMAF universe.
The past 12 months have been frustrating for Gitinov, with the pandemic bringing international competition to a halt. Thankfully, the global situation has improved, and the gifted athlete is now eagerly awaiting his return to action at the forthcoming European Championships, starting August 16 in Kazan, Russia.
“2020 was a hard year for us all and for fighters too,’ Gitinov says.
“It’s not easy to stay motivated and train twice a day without having any fight soon. But now we have the date, and I’m very excited to get back to action and show how much I have improved in this period. ”
Gitinov’s dream of pursuing a career in sport took shape early in childhood. He started wrestling at the same time he began school, and with the backing of his family, set about mastering the skills that would take him to the top of the amateur MMA world.
“Competition has always been my life. I come from a place where this sport is treated very seriously, and I’ve always been encouraged by my family to take it up.
“My family knows from experience the benefits of sport, and I thank them for pushing me in that direction. I feel like my life story can’t be written without combat sports, first wrestling and now MMA. “
Gitinov’s journey to Bahrain came about after he outwrestled Team Bahrain’s head coach Eldar Eldarov— the current BRAVE CF super lightweight champion — in a sparring session. The pair had grown up together in the village of Khunzakh; however, until he experienced Gitinov’s talents firsthand, Eldarov had only viewed his neighbor as ‘just a young boy.”
“He was very technical and surprised me. From that day, I understood that this kid is very talented and brought him to Bahrain,” Eldarov comments.
Dagestan is a noted wrestling powerhouse, with the region producing multiple Olympic champions throughout the years. When talking about the Dagestani wrestling scene, the phrase ‘steel sharpens steel’ often comes to people’s minds, and it was in this highly competitive environment that Gitinov first established himself.
“The level of competition is crazy all over Dagestan, ” Gitinov says.
“I come from a small village, and the level there is amazing. If we talk about wrestling gyms in the cities, like Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, you can see more than a hundred kids training in one group, and after them, another group comes in with another hundred athletes. This environment breeds our Olympic champions.”
After accepting an invite from Eldarov in 2017 to travel to the Kingdom of Bahrain to help out with sparring, Gitinov soon found himself embracing the culture that his compatriot had fostered within the country’s national team. It was not long before the new arrival decided his future lay in the Gulf State nation.
“Everyone that has come to Bahrain knows what it is like, the Bahrain hospitality. It’s a different atmosphere than I saw in other places. The training atmosphere is amazing, everyone works for the same goal, so there’s no egos, only a sense of teamwork,” Gitinov explains.
“Our leader Sheikh Khaled’s support, our coaches, the team spirit, and of course, the people of Bahrain and their support makes the difference for us fighters.”
Bahrain may seem a world away from the rugged mountainous landscape of Dagestan, but one passion both cultures share is a love of horse riding. For Gitinov, riding on the beaches of his adopted home offers him a chance to unwind and relax, something he may have little time to do in the coming months.
After the European Championships in Russia, focus shifts to the 2021 IMMAF World Championships in Kazakhstan, and where Gitinov defends his welterweight crown.
It is a demanding schedule, but Gitinov is relishing the opportunity to demonstrate why he is the best pound-for-pound amateur fighter on the planet.
“I became world champion in 2019, and it was my happiest day. But now I’m on top, and I want to prove again and again that I’m number one for a long time in this sport,” he says.
The upcoming IMMAF championships will provide the Bahraini athlete with the perfect stage to showcase his growing skillset as he looks to raise the bar he set in 2019 to an even higher level.
Ramazan Gitinov Key Facts
- He grew up in Dagestan in the village Khunzakh with his future Team Bahrain coach, Eldar Eldarov.
- He wanted to be a world champion since childhood and was supported in this goal by his family.
- He is a skilled horse rider
- Soon after switching from wrestling to MMA, Ramazan suffered a loss at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships. He then spent an entire year training twice a day without any breaks to sharpen his skills. Since returning to the sport, he has won 12 straight bouts.