By Jake Smith
Many mixed martial arts talents have honed their craft on the IMMAF stage. Names such as Brendan Allen and Muhammad Mokaev have held the coveted pound for pound #1 spot, before turning over and creating big names for themselves in the professional ranks.
Team Bahrain’s Ramazan Gitinov currently finds himself at the top of the IMMAF tree but where did it all start and how did he make it to the top step?
Gitinov grew up in Khunzakh, Dagestan, the same village as Team Bahrain head coach Eldar Eldarov. He started wrestling at a very young age, with his family encouraging him to compete in sport from day one. Eldarov invited him in for a sparring session, and Gitinov subsequently outwrestled, and seriously impressed, Eldarov.
In 2017, Gitinov made the decision to move from Dagestan to Bahrain in order to be under the tutelage of Eldarov and further develop his MMA skills.
The dominant wrestler opened his IMMAF account with a podium finish, something that would become a regular occurrence as he continued to develop as a well rounded mixed martial artist. His debut competition was the 2017 IMMAF African Open Championships, in which the dominant wrestler took home a silver medal, defeating Riyaad Pandy in round one, before coming up short against Eliezer Kubanza.
He then entered the 2017 World Championships as still a relative unknown. In the opening round, he faced French amateur debutant, Fabien Xabidi, who ended Gitinov’s tournament in only 25 seconds, finishing the contest via first round KO/TKO.
Following the defeat, Gitinov spent almost two years away from competing, opting to train every day, twice a day, for over a year in order to improve his technique. He struck a very different figure upon his return at the 2019 Asian Open, entering the competition two weight divisions higher than he had back in 2017, adding his name to a highly competitive 185lbs division.
The opening round draw produced the toughest matchup possible for Gitinov, facing off against pound for pound number one, 2017 World Silver medalist and 2018 European Gold medalist, Axel Sola.
Gitinov stormed to victory, getting the nod on all three judges’ scorecards. Showing vast improvements in the striking department, whilst simultaneously demonstrating the high calibre wrestling synonymous with Bahrain competitor across rounds one and two proved too much for Sola. The victory was not only one of the biggest upsets in the tournament but kick-started an extremely successful run for Gitinov. In the semi final, he faced Aleksandr Val and once again claimed a dominant unanimous decision victory.
Unfortunately, Gitinov was forced to withdraw from the final, but still took home his second silver medal from three competitions, and very much began to make a name for himself in the process.
Just a few weeks later he was competing in his maiden European Championships. The weight may have been different, this time competing at Welterweight, but the dominant performances continued, claiming a 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 unanimous decision victory over Ivan Kurelaru in the opening round. Gitinov threw it back to his first amateur bout, with back to back round one Anaconda Chokes against Alex Gill and Dario Petrolo, which earned him a place in the final. Gitnov’s relentless pressure proved too much for Morozov, and the Bahrain man earned his first IMMAF gold medal; and going from a 1-2 unknown, to a 7-2 prospect in the space of two tournaments.
Keen to add more gold to his medal haul, and looking to remain active, Gitinov was back in the IMMAF cage before the year was out; competing next, at the World Championships. Proving to be his submission of choice, and a submission which lends itself perfectly to Gitinov’s heavy wrestling dynamic, he locked up yet another two first round Anaconda Chokes against Jario Carreon & Rusi Minev. He faced debutante Quentin Paounaud, of whom Gitinov dispatched in the second round by way of TKO; cruising into the semi-finals with less than 4 minutes of cage time. Gitinov would square off against 2019 Russian MMA champion & undefeated prospect Rustam Khadisgadzhiev in the highly anticipated semi-final. He toughed out a unanimous decision victory and handed the Russian his first amateur loss. The stage was set for an all Bahrain showdown between Zagid Gaidarov and Gitinov but due to Gaidarov having to withdraw, Gitinov was awarded the gold medal, adding a World Championship to his European gold earlier that year. With that, he achieved his childhood dream to become a world champion.
Although 2020 proved a difficult year for combat sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 24-year-old still found time to collect an Oceania Open gold to his collection and further solidify his place as the IMMAF pound 4 pound number 1.
In his first tournament back since the pandemic, at the 2021 European Championships, Gitinov headed into the tournament with many interested to see if he could defend his European crown. He picked up where he left off and was again on the top of the podium. He proved too much for Musa Ramazanov in the opening round, who succumbed to a second round submission. Following that, Gitinov implemented his powerful & commanding wrestling game to systematically work his way to two unanimous decisions in the quarter and semi finals. He was set to face fellow countryman Murad Guseinov in the final but Guseinov withdrew due to an injury.
With the world championships just around the corner, Gitinov could join an elite group of IMMAF competitors who retained both European and World titles.
His dominance has not only benefited Gitinov, but his nation too. He has been at the forefront of Bahrain’s meteoric rise through the IMMAF rankings, playing a large role in helping them secure the number one place in the IMMAF country rankings.