Since making his IMMAF debut in 2018, Kazakhstan’s Bagdat Zhubanysh has been nothing short of a sensation. Back-to-back world titles in 2018 and 2019 saw the 24-year-old strawweight establish himself as one of the leading lights of Kazakhstan’s burgeoning MMA scene.
For Zhubanysh, the upcoming IMMAF European Championships will provide him with not only an opportunity to sharpen his skills before November’s 2021 World Championships, but also the chance to inspire the next generation of Kazakhstani fighters.
“Our guys successfully compete in the UFC and many of the other major MMA promotions. We [Team Kazakhstan] want to become an example for the younger generation, to inspire as many boys and girls as possible to go into MMA,” he says. “My dream is to achieve great results and become a three-time world champion.”
Zhubanysh’s success has helped propel Team Kazakhstan to No.3 on the IMMAF national rankings list. He has come a long way since he first started training seven years ago. Back then, he had no ambitions of representing his nation or capturing world titles. Instead, it was his love of MMA that motivated him.
“When I came to MMA, I did not think that I would achieve such results. I didn’t set big goals and didn’t see an opportunity to become a world champion. I just trained daily,” he explains.
Zhubanysh’s first competitive outing ended in defeat. However, rather than becoming disheartened, he dusted himself off, returned to the gym and set about correcting his mistakes.
“After a year of hard training, I won my first medal, and then another one. It was then I felt a real desire to strive for victories, aim for high goals and work hard to achieve this.”
A country boy at heart, Zhubanysh, the youngest in a family of five, was born in the village of Karakhobda, situated 50km out of Aktobe — one of the largest cities in Kazakhstan. After seeing his elder siblings leave for Aktobe to further their education, Zhubanysh became determined to join them, and it was when he came to Aktobe that Zhubanysh’s life took an unexpected turn.
“I tried to devote all my time to study. I wanted to go to study in the city, like my brothers and sister. It was only after arriving in the city that I discovered MMA,” he explains. “MMA has radically changed my life. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I only want to do this.”
The last twelve months have been difficult for all athletes, and when Kazakhstan went into lockdown, Zhubanysh found himself unable to train as usual. Thankfully, one of the advantages of living in the country meant Zhubanysh could transform his natural surroundings into a makeshift gym.
“During the lockdown, it was difficult getting into the city but nothing prevented me from training at home. I ran cross-country, practiced in the playground, in the yard on horizontal bars, shadowboxed and tried to keep myself in shape, ” he says. “I did not sit idly by and I did everything that was required of me.”
One bright moment during this period was when he won in the Best Male Athlete category at the 2020 World Amateur MMA Awards. It was an impressive achievement for someone who had only been competing internationally for two years.
” Any fighter from any country would dream of being in my place. My coaches were very happy for me and my victory is a credit to them. This year I want to repeat my triumph.”
After the European Championships, Zhubanysh will begin preparing for November’s IMMAF 2021 World Championships, which take place in Kazakhstan. The tournament will attract a considerable amount of coverage, and Zhubanysh, as one of the team’s most recognisable faces, is ready for the attention that is bound to come his way.
“Holding the World Championships in Kazakhstan puts extra responsibility onto our national team. The entire country will be supporting us, and we will make every effort to perform with dignity,” he says.
If Zhubanysh can make history in November and become the first IMMAF athlete to capture three successive world titles, it would be a remarkable achievement for someone who came from humble beginnings. It would also serve as a reminder to aspiring athletes everywhere of the importance of perseverance and dedication.
- Ranked fourth in the IMMAF senior pound-for-pound list
- Can make history in November by becoming the first fighter to capture three successive IMMAF world titles
- Won Best Male Athlete at the 2020 World Amateur MMA Awards