By James Sweetnam
Anastasiya Karmaeva has become a national superstar in her homeland after picking up a gold medal at the 2021 IMMAF World Championships.
The RMMAU representative captivated the Abu Dhabi crowd with her excellent performances throughout the event. She utilised her sublime skillset to defeat both Lijana Lipinskaite and Nazerke Isabek en route to becoming the Junior Bantamweight World Champion.
Karmaeva impressed to such an extent that she’s gained huge popularity whilst still operating as an amateur. At just 19-years-of-age the youngster is appearing on talk shows and is generating massive amounts of publicity.
But she wouldn’t be in this position without her tremendous showings at the tournament. She revealed exactly what it was like to participate in the competition and the high she’s been on since.
Karmaeva explained: “It’s like I’m in a fairy tale that’s come true. I felt a variety of emotions. Starting from pre-fight adrenaline pump to euphoria when my hand was raised. I felt the magnitude of the World Championships. The standard was truly world level.”
The Bantamweight has dedicated her life to becoming the athlete she is today. She spent years honing her skills in Kudo, grappling and wrestling before she ever even considered setting foot in the cage. But what may surprise fans is that Karmaeva’s real love is a sport that caught her imagination when she was only a child.
The 19-year-old revealed: “I’ve been practising gymnastics since I was 4-years-old. I trained every day for 12-years. I earned the accolade of ‘Candidate for Master of Sport’ as I was a nationally ranked athlete. Although I transitioned into MMA, I’m still a gymnast at heart.”
“I participated in grappling, kudo and other martial arts tournaments to gain experience. I’m the Oriental Martial Arts Russian champion, and I medalled in Russian Grappling championships (with and with without gi).”
Although Karmaeva possessed the fundamental skills to make it as a mixed martial artist, she had no desire to ever compete. But one night that completely changed. The youngster sat down to watch Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor, and the bout inspired her. She can still recall the moment her life changed forever.
“MMA is a real art. I remember watching that bout. I could feel the energy through the television. I could almost touch it. That’s when I decided to become part of it.”
Women’s MMA is growing at a rapid rate, but they haven’t quite caught up with the men yet. However, the gold medalist believes that the key to attracting more females to the sport is very simple.
“There is always room to grow. But I think the mechanism is quite straightforward. The more women’s MMA gets discussed and highlighted in the media; the more female athletes will get attracted to it. Even judging by the feedback on my Instagram account, one can conclude that more and more girls are beginning to show an interest in MMA.”
On January 11, 2011, UFC President Dana White claimed that women will never fight in the promotion. But just 11 years later, we’ve witnessed the landscape of the sport change forever. Ronda Rousey burst to superstardom with her terrifying armbar, and Amanda Nunes engaged fans with her explosive knockouts. However, the stigma surrounding women’s MMA is still rife in certain areas of the world. But Karmaeva rejects the idea that there should be any judgement towards women for simply chasing their dreams.
“In Russia, we have strong traditionalist family values. I’m an example of it, too, by the way, my upbringing was the same. Many are afraid that a girl might become too masculine, but I believe it all depends on the girl.”
The RMMAU athlete’s life has become a rollercoaster since her gold medal clinching win in the UAE. But while she’s enjoying the celebrity lifestyle in Russia, she’s still focused on her next career move.
“I love doing television appearances, and I plan to evolve. But I’m still thinking about the next strategic steps. However, I don’t intend on turning it over yet. Personally, I think amateur MMA is much more appealing than the professional ranks. You have to be ready for whatever and whoever, whether it’s a striker or a wrestler. You never know beforehand who you’ll be facing during the championships. In contrast, a professional fighter prepares for a single specific opponent. I embrace suspense and unknowingness.”
Nobody can argue that Karmaeva is one of the most talented fighters on the planet. She’s not scared of anyone regardless of their physical prowess. But it seems her bravery doesn’t extend as far as cute furry animals.
“During quarantine when all the gyms and even parks were closed. Squirrels that are usually fed by the park strollers became desperate for food. Unbeknownst to me, they basically got wild. I sneaked into a closed park just to train and run outside, and I was bombarded by squirrels. That was the fastest run of my life, I reckon.”