Why Are There So Many Fighters From Dagestan In The UFC?

Why Are There So Many Fighters From Dagestan In The UFC?

From the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov to the current UFC Lightweight champion and pound-for-pound number one, Islam Makhachev, and many other fighters from Dagestan making their mark in the UFC, this republic in the North Caucasus region of Russia, with a population of just over three million, has had a remarkable impact on the world of MMA.

Why is this? Why are there so many fighters from Dagestan in the UFC?

Wrestling Culture

Wrestling is deeply ingrained in the culture of Dagestan, with many young boys starting to train at a very early age. This provides a strong foundation in grappling and takedown techniques, which are valuable skills in MMA.

Sambo Background

Sambo, a mixed martial art developed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, is widely practiced in Dagestan. It incorporates techniques from Judo (throws and takedowns), wrestling (ground control and takedowns), and striking (punches, kicks, knees, elbows). This provides a well-rounded skillset that translates well to MMA, where fighters need to be proficient in all areas.

Sambo also includes techniques specifically designed to transition between different phases of combat, such as moving from striking to grappling or vice versa. These transition skills are invaluable in MMA, where fights can quickly shift between standing and ground positions.

Many Dagestani fighters had extensive experience and success in sambo before transitioning to MMA, e.g. Islam Makhachev, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Magomed Ankalaev, Umar Nurmagomedov and Ikram Aliskerov.

Role Models

Fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev have achieved great success in the UFC, inspiring and motivating younger generations to pursue MMA. Gyms with established training methods and experienced coaches become magnets for aspiring fighters. This has led to a growing interest in MMA and an influx of talented fighters from Dagestan into the sport.

Training Facilities and Coaches

Dagestan boasts high-quality training facilities and coaches with experience in developing fighters for MMA. These facilities provide access to top-notch training equipment and coaching staff who understand the intricacies of MMA.

High-Altitude Training

Dagestan’s mountainous terrain provides high-altitude training environments. This can enhance cardiovascular endurance, allowing fighters to maintain stamina during UFC bouts.


Dagestani culture places a strong emphasis on hard work, discipline, and dedication. Many fighters from Dagestan are known for their relentless work ethic and commitment to training, which helps them excel in the highly competitive world of MMA.

Dagestan’s history has involved much conflict and hardship. This has helped to foster a cultural emphasis on strength and resilience, which are valuable assets in MMA.

Economic Opportunity

Dagestan faces economic challenges. MMA can offer a path to financial security and a better life, motivating young athletes to dedicate themselves to the sport.


The above factors have combined to create a fertile ground for developing exceptional MMA fighters in Dagestan, which is likely to continue for many years to come.

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