By Jasmin Osman
In our latest installment of the Women in MMA Series, we continue to celebrate yet another amazing woman in the world of MMA, Zarina Nazhbiyeva. Zarina the Team Leader of the Kazakhstan Federation and her journey thus far is absolutely inspiring.
Zarina graduated from university with a degree in tourism and sports management, kickstarting her career in tourism. It was only when her hometown hosted the Asian Winter Games did she seriously consider working in the sports industry.
“First, I gained experience in speed skating, then I became active in the sports complexes of the city and with the Barys hockey club. Finally, I discovered the wonderful, strong, and exciting sport of MMA and I fell in love.”
Joining the Kazakhstan Federation back in 2014, Zarina, like many others, started off working as a volunteer — only participating at major events. But two years later, in 2016, she quit her full-time job and decided to devote herself wholly to MMA by joining the main team of the MMA Federation of Kazakhstan. Not too long after, Zarina became Team Leader of the Kazakh Federation – a position she has held near and dear to her heart ever since.
“Working in the sports field, perhaps I don’t directly help my country the way doctors or teachers do. But for me, the result of our athletes raising the flag of Kazakhstan in the international arena of one of the most popular sports in the world today is also very important. And when I hear words of gratitude from athletes, I understand the value of my work and position again and again.”
Although Zarina’s days are mostly filled with helping the Kazakh athletes through administrative issues like organising and planning participation in national and international competitions, she understands how beneficial her work is for them.
“When I know that our athletes don’t have to torment themselves with filling out various documents, papers; not worrying about schedules, not nervous about long flights and visa formalities. They don’t have to worry about such administrative problems as a whole. Instead, all they need to do is prepare themselves for competitions, train and calmly do their direct duties, then I understand all the benefits of my activities.”
Zarina’s dream would be to see the rapid expansion of participants in international competitions over the next five years. She knows and understands the benefits of countries starting their own federations and commissions, and she hopes that more will do so.
“Well, it is quite possible to hold any tournaments among amateur MMA veterans. I think in five years their number will increase. We all know that it is very difficult for athletes to leave their careers, and such friendly tournaments would help them keep themselves in a positive mood. I often see our coaches and judges in their free time wearing rash guards and shorts and quietly sparring in a corner of the warm-up area!”
One can tell by how Zarina speaks about her position at the Kazakh Federation and her involvement in MMA that she loves the sport. When asked about any advice she would like to give to a fellow woman wanting to join the sport, she had this to say:
“It does not matter whether you’re a woman or a man. I have only one piece of advice. If you come to the field of this sport: just love MMA. Love the athletes, the coaches, the sports arenas in all spheres. It’s a tough sport, but when you fall in love with it, you’ll be very proud that you’re involved. After all, let’s be honest, all athletes from other combat sports ultimately want to be here, too!”