By Michael Clifton and Mikhail Mazur
Omar Aliev is one of Russian MMA’s most promising up-and-coming fighters. The 21-year-old was the junior light-heavyweight gold medalist at the 2019 IMMAF World and European Championships and will move to the senior ranks at the forthcoming 2021 European Championships, scheduled to be held in August in Kazan, Russia.
Since childhood, the Dagestan-born fighter, with the support of his parents and his older brother Ali, has trained as a martial artist, developing his skills across multiple disciplines, including grappling, sambo, and freestyle wrestling.
“Each of these disciplines left their trace in my DNA and shaped the modern version of myself. I believe that has made me quite a versatile athlete, ” Aliev says. “Older kids kept testing and challenging us all the time, making us wrestle or simply fight each other, provoked us to pull [us] up more or jump farther. That tempered my character but also gave me a sense of self-confidence. I hated losing, and today this feeling remains.”
From the outside looking in, Aliev’s rise to the top of the IMMAF junior amateur ranks appear to have been seamless, yet another example of the steady supply of talent coming out of the Caucasus region. However, Aliev’s IMMAF career could have been over before it had even begun after he struggled with a series of setbacks that almost saw him hanging up his gloves for good.
“2017 – 2019 was a pivotal period for me as I’d been losing in tournaments left and right, due to hard competition and lack of experience. I could not seem to capture any medals. It affected me big time,” Aliev explained. “Thoughts of quitting were creeping in. Maybe [I should] focus on something else? It’s sad when you can’t get a return from your efforts. You shed sweat and blood but end up with zero rewards. I’m sure all athletes know what I mean. “
Rather than take the easy way out, Aliev continued to grind away in the gym, diligently working on refining his skills and refusing to let doubts block his ambitions. It helped that in his corner, his brother was providing him with sound advice and guidance.
“My elder brother Ali, a good athlete in the past, too, supported me well. He kept talking and encouraging me. He helped me keep my head high and keep faith.”
Aliev’s hard work did not go unrewarded, and his tournament successes in 2019 saw him earn the No.1 spot in the junior men’s light heavyweight division. After conquering the junior division, he now has his sights set on doing the same in the senior division.
“Competition is what helps our sport evolve further. The thought of debuting in the seniors is a huge motivation. I’m sure I will be able to impose my game and capture that gold!” he exclaims.
He is also using the fact that he has a chance to claim a European title on home soil as a source of extra motivation.
“Competing in your home country always gives you extra strength and defending the motherland’s colors at international events is also an additional responsibility. It makes you train even harder.”
Shouldering responsibility, whether in the gym or his personal life, comes naturally to Aliev. It’s the reason why he recently opened up a coffee house.
“MMA itself is not really a cheap sport to practice. You need to spend money on nutrition, preparation, and training camps. My only sponsors are my parents,” he says. “I’m not a little kid anymore, so I can’t keep taking their money all the time, so I decided to develop in another direction, too, namely business. This way, I can satisfy my basic needs regarding my routine life and preparations for the upcoming tournaments. “
As he prepares to compete on the biggest stage of his career, Aliev keeps the lessons taught to him by his family at the forefront of everything he does.
“It was instilled in me to always try and become the best in what you do. Regardless of whether you are a shoemaker or an MMA fighter. Do your work better than yesterday. Become a better version of yourself tomorrow, ” he advocates. “Keep growing – that’s my main goal. As [Alexander] Suvorov said, ‘A worthy soldier will always aspire to become a general’. I started from the bottom, but my target is the top.”
Follow Omar Aliev on Instagram: @aliev_zzzz
- Ranked No.1 in the junior light-heavyweight division, Aliev will make his senior debut at the 2021 IMMAF European Championships.
- He credits his family for supporting his MMA journey since he first started learning martial arts as a child.
- He opened his own coffee house to help cover the costs of his MMA career and because he enjoys owning and operating a business.