For most people the prospect of facing a debuting Roberto Soldic would be a daunting one.
The Croatian has built a reputation as a devastating knockout artist and is riding a seven fight win streak when he arrives in ONE this weekend.
However, in Murad Ramazanov, he has been handed an equally tough task.
11-0 in MMA, and riding an impressive three-fight win streak in ONE, Ramazanov is a genuine contender in the welterweight division.
With a strong wrestling background, the 27-year-old was also unbeaten as an amateur, and knows a win this weekend would put him in the upper echelons of the division, and in title contention.
But who is Murad Ramazanov?
He grew up in Makhachkala, Russia, a now famed location for the production of top-class fighters. The youngest of three children, Ramazanov had a comfortable upbringing thanks to his family’s small production business, mainly specialising in shoes.
He describes himself as being spoiled as a child, with a special relationship with his father – and being kept in line by a more strict mother.
Despite his father wanting Ramazanov to follow in his footsteps as a businessman, there were early signs of a more combative future.
“My father had a huge influence on me – he was my rock, my support, and me inspiration. One of my on- screen heroes was [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, but my true idol was Jean-Claude Van Damme – we had a tape with “Bloodsport,” and I must have watched it a thousand times. I loved his technique, his kicks – it was spectacular.”
As a youngster, he would fight on the streets, but nothing too serious. He had tried his hand at boxing and football, but when he was introduced to wrestling by his father he had an instant connection.
“He practiced it in the army, when he served in Georgia, where it’s a very popular sport. I started
with boxing when I was 10 or 11 years old, then soccer for a year, where coaches were not great. I didn’t want to start freestyle wrestling because of the coaches who brought up shouting and hitting. But one morning, when I was 12 years old, my father took me to Greco-Roman Wrestling, where there was a younger coach, he had a different approach to us. My father told me that I could train for a week and if I did not like it, then I could quit. But I really got into it quickly.”
Scouted from a young age by national coaches, Ramazanov would go on to win multiple junior and amateur accolades, and even moved to Moscow to further his wrestling education – a difficult move for someone so family orientated. After becoming disillusioned with a drop in coaching standards, he would move from Moscow to Dagestan and his transition to jiu-jitsu and MMA began.
“Because of my wrestling background, I immediately got good at it – they even thought that I
was an experienced fighter,” he said. “I joined a pro team under Yusup Saadulaev and there were so many skilled guys among them! I thought I was good, but I was humbled. I got caught in triangles and armbars, which I didn’t like. I wanted to spar with MMA guys who were great on the ground and on their feet, but I didn’t have enough skill. I wasn’t planning to go straight into MMA, but I quickly realized that I was only good in one area: wrestling. My new goal was to become a well-rounded fighter, to learn how to use elbows and knees, and how to mix wrestling and striking.”
This was all at the age of 16.
Inspired by Khabib Nurmagomedov, he would stay true to his wrestling background and build his base from there.
“Khabib used his biggest asset – the dominant wrestling – and developed everything else from that. I tried to emulate him. If it wasn’t for Khabib, I would have lost some of my core skills, trying to become a striker, a kickboxer,” he explained.
It worked. An undefeated stint as an amateur eventually led to Ramazanov having some professional fights as a teenager. But a big win when he was 21, pushed his trajectory, and by early 2020 we was signing with ONE.
“Before I signed with ONE, I had followed this organization for a while because I liked its tough rules. Guys from my gym like Marat Gafurov and Yusup Saadulaev fought there. When I went to Singapore for my debut, I was impressed by how the staff treated us athletes, how we were greeted by CEO Chatri Sityodtong.”
And now he sits 3-0 in ONE on the verge of a title shot, he thinks he already deserves, with Soldic standing in his way.
“I think I deserved it then, but if the company’s management decided that I needed to smash
another guy on the way to the top, it’s ok. I think one more fight, and I should be given a title shot. I’ve already won three fights in ONE, that’s enough for a title shot, I think and many experts and MMA fans agree with me.”
It is a high stakes fight for both men, and one which could steal the show this weekend.
ONE Fight Night 5: De Ridder vs. Malykhin takes place Saturday December 3 5am GST at the Mall Of Asia Arena, Manila. This is a night not to be missed so mark your calendars, download the ONE Super App, and go to watch.onefc.com now!