In less than a year the Russian amateur MMA team has asserted itself as the benchmark superpower of talent cultivation and success.
The Russian MMA Union, serving as the nation’s recognised governing body for MMA, joined the IMMAF fold with the team making its debut in a unified effort with counterpart body, the MMA Federation of Russia, at the 2018 Unified World Championships following the amalgamation of IMMAF and WMMAA.
The vast influx of elite amateur athletes to the World Championships via the Russian MMA Union network dramatically impacted the international landscape. Russia charged to the summit of both the senior and junior World Championships with record setting dominance.
A total of 15 Russian athletes progressed to the finals: 8 seniors, 7 juniors. The feat set an inaugural Junior World Championships record and edged out Sweden’s record of 7 senior finalists set in 2016. Russia’s 5 senior gold medals also topped Sweden’s 2017 record of 4.
With nations permitted to enter two athletes per weight division, Russia’s extensive dominance was further highlighted in the junior middleweight and senior light-heavyweight divisions where the gold medal decider was contested in Russia vs. Russia finals.
From the 2018 World Championships last November to the 2019 European Open back in June, Russia did it again. The conquerors of the World Championships topped both senior and junior medal tables at the European Open in Rome with a total of 10 gold medals secured, split evenly between the two contests.
With so many to choose from, there are perhaps two athletes in particular who personify Russia’s depth of strength in 2019. At the European Open, reigning junior world champions, middleweight Magomedkhabib Umarov (pictured above, left) and light-heavyweight Igor Glazkov (pictured, right) transitioned to the deeper, more challenging senior divisions.
Both athletes took over the senior ranks with utterly dominating performances. The former junior duo mauled their opposition with Russian wrestling prowess, forcing stoppages, but also showcasing effective striking, in one particular moment from Umarov who turned to cunning creativity on his feet upon the rare occasion that an opponent was ready to defend his takedown.
In contrast, the ever humble and at times apologetic Glazkov would trouble his opposition with precise, clubbing strikes. Like Umarov, his flawless takedown success rate came with its own smothering, bulldozer style. Unsurprising considering his background as wrestling champion of Siberia. The ominous extent of Russia’s potential hits home even harder when considering that Glazkov is only the number-two amateur light-heavyweight in Russia, twice a runner up at the Russian national championships.
2019 was also the year that Russia’s MMA Union turned its attention to the development of women’s talent. After Polina Kobzeva and
Svetlana Kotova blazed a trail for Russian women at the 2018 Worlds by earning silver and bronze, flyweight prospect Viktoriya Dudakova (pictured above) emerged among Russia’s inaugural women’s national championship winners.
Dudakova was the nation’s first international gold medalist with three wins at the European Open, defeating standouts from the UK, Finland and Germany, including a highly competitive semi-final win over 2018 gold medalist Janika Antinmaa.
From relative obscurity in the national team rankings up until 2018, Russia has skyrocketed into contention for the coveted number-one team ranking. Already leaders at the junior level (age 18-20) by a significant margin, Russia are hot on the heels of Bahrain to claim the status of being number-one at the elite senior level (18+). The Russian team currently rests in second place and they are far from satisfied.
Throw into the mix a prominent showing at the world’s first Youth MMA World Championships where Russia’s young talent took the nation to third place in the medal table. All things considered, Russia stands in 2019 as the outstanding and de facto world leader of MMA talent development.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) host the 2019 Amateur MMA Awards on Thursday 14 November during the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA Unified World Championships in Manama.
National Team of The Year nominations include:
For more information on award categories and nominates, click HERE.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran