If you’ve been following MMA in recent years, it’s impossible that you missed the meteoric rise of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Once on American shores, the Eagle quickly became the boogeyman of the UFC’s lightweight division. He spent much of his time in the UFC waiting for a match-up as other contenders wanted none of the undefeated 24-year-old from Makhachkala, Dagestan. Khabib’s popularity reached new heights when he fought Conor McGregor on 6th October 2018 on the most successful card in the history of the UFC and mixed martial arts. 

UFC 229 Mixed Martial Arts” (Public Domain) by brucedetorres@gmail.com

However, Khabib proved to be just the tip of the iceberg. Following him, the figurative floodgates of Dagestan opened up, leading to several athletes from the south of Russia finding their way to the top tier of MMA competition in several organizations worldwide. 

What the Gracies were in the nineties, the Dagestanis are today. It’s no coincidence that athletes from this relatively small demographic of 3 million people are some of the best fighters in the world. The last time a fighter shook the world on the level of Khabib was when Canada’s very own Georges St. Pierre went on his nine-fight title defense run.

The GSP era was responsible for bringing combat sports into the mainstream. Between those early steps and now, MMA has become a global phenomenon and has particularly caught the attention of Canadian fight fans. A natural consequence of this has been the phenomenal growth of the betting industry around combat sports in Canada, alongside the rise of online casinos as a gambling option. With a wide range of online betting options on MMA now opening up, it helps to have a company that researches and lists trustworthy sites to cater to safe online gambling before you make wagers on the next fight involving a Dagestani athlete.

Actually, placing bets on them, though, is only step two of the process. First, let’s take a closer look at the factors that allow them to excel in a range of combat sports. 

Fighting Culture

Like soccer in Brazil and rugby in New Zealand, Dagestan has its own staple sport, which happens to combat. It’s common practice in Dagestan to make children wrestle on social occasions. Further, their affinity for fighting isn’t restricted to a singular martial art. Instead, you will find world-champion fighters in Wrestling, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Combat Sambo, and several other sports coming from the same region. Combat Sambo seems to be the ideal precursor to Mixed Martial Arts, but more on that later. 

U.F.C. Comes to the Beach,” (CC BY 2.0) by Patrick Doheny

High Altitudes

While the capital city Makhachkala sits on the coast of the Caspian Sea, it’s only a short distance away from the steep and rugged Caucasus mountains. Training in the rarified air of these mountains allows fighters to have a significant cardio advantage over their competition. 

Combat Sambo

Combat Sambo, which originated in the 1920s as a system of hand-to-hand combat meant to be used by soldiers, is immensely popular in Dagestan. To put it simply, Sambo is a form of wrestling that permits punches, kicks, elbows, throws, headbutts, and groin strikes. Therefore, the skills required to excel at Sambo directly translate to a strong base for MMA. Khabib himself was a two-time world champion in Combat Sambo.

Hard Training Style

Fighters from Dagestan have been fighting for as long as they have been in school, sometimes earlier. This internalization of fighting allows them to excel against competitors who have started training later in life. Additionally, Dagestani training methods are different from those employed in the West, with a greater emphasis on repeated sparring against fresh opponents for hours on end. It’s no surprise that this demanding lifestyle has produced some of the best fighters in the world today.  

While these are just a few of the reasons contributing to Dagestan’s success in combat sports, only time will tell whether their dominance will continue. Today, there are two Dagestani world champions in the UFC and Bellator, with several more in the top 10 of other organizations, in addition to the two premier promotions. It will be interesting to discover who the Sakuraba of this generation will be.  

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