By Tudor Leonte
An unusual path led Margarita Russo to the 2022 IMMAF European Championships. Now, the 21-year-old fighter won’t settle until she gets a much-coveted gold medal in the women’s 155-pound category.
Russo lived in Russia until a couple of years ago, when she travelled to Rome, Italy. In Russia, she used to compete in finswimming, and she was pretty good at it, going as far as joining the national team.
“I was part of the Russian finswimming national team before moving to Italy. Once there, I trained in a local team in Rome. Most of our events went down here at the Bella Italia Village in Lignano Sabbiadoro, so I’m pretty accustomed to the venue.”
In Italy, Russo didn’t find the opportunity she was looking for in her finswimming career. Even though her resume and results spoke for themselves, the Italian finswimming federation wasn’t impressed enough to offer her a chance to compete at the highest level. That’s when she came up with a different solution and brought her talents to a completely different sport.
“The Italian finswimming federation didn’t fund more than two people for the world championships. When I was told that I said to myself, ‘You know what? If you don’t bring me to a world championship competition, I’ll get there by myself in another sport.’ That’s when I took up MMA. This is my first year as an MMA fighter. I was lucky to meet my coach, Lorenzo Borgomeo, and start training at Aurora MMA. They’re the best team in Italy.”
Russo wasn’t a fish out of the water once she got on the training mat. Even though she is showing some natural talent for the new discipline, her determination for excellence brings her to train every aspect of the game, leaving nothing to chance.
“I’m very comfortable in the grappling exchanges even though there is still much ground to cover. I work every day to improve my striking and wrestling skills.”
While Russo misses her mother and siblings, she is also determined to polish her skills in Italy.
“My mother and my five siblings are in Russia. I am studying at a Russian university and taking my courses online. I was asked to get back to Russia, and it was a bit of a problem because I want to train here in Italy.”
Watch the 2022 IMMAF European Championships live and exclusively from Bella Italia Efa Village in Lignano Sabbiadoro (Italy) from 27 September and 1 October 2022 at immaf.tv, with the tournament draw taking place on 26 September.