In just under a century, Russian Sambo has gone from the secret self-defense method of the Soviet army to a popular and successful martial art practiced and contested around the world. It has influenced some of MMA’s top fighters and produced its own champions in Combat Sambo and Sports Sambo. Here are ten of Russian Sambo’s greatest stars:
The Last Emperor isn’t just one of Russian Sambo’s greatest fighters, he’s also an excellent ambassador for the martial art. Emelianenko’s legendary MMA career (38-6-1) helped put Russian Sambo on the international map as both a solid foundation for mixed martial arts and an exciting and challenging competitive martial art of its own.
After learning Russian Sambo as part of his service in the Soviet Army, Pushnitsa went on to become the most titled athlete in the history of the martial art. He’s a 9 time USSR, 2 time European, and 3 time World Champion in the martial art.
Multiple time Sambo World Championship and World Cup winner Kurinnoy is Russian Sambo’s true renaissance man. In addition to his competitive Sambo career, he has also spearheaded online publications on the martial art and opened one of the country’s biggest gyms dedicated to it.
2 time Combat Sambo World Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is also the undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion. His solid Russian Sambo background has helped propel him to the longest-running undefeated streak in MMA history.
Murat Ruslanovich Khasanov
Judo competitor and Russian Sambo legend Khasanov has won more titles than almost any other wrestler in the world, including the World Heavyweight championship in SAMBO (11x), World Cup (x8), Europe (x7), and Russian SAMBO Championship (x19).
When wrestling was first permitted for girls in Russia, 13-year-old Rodina signed up because she wanted to improve her self-esteem. She went on to become an 11 time World Champion in Russian Sambo. She has also competed in Judo.
Mokhnatkina holds 6 World Championships, 2 European Championships and 8 Russian Championships in Sambo. Her excellent Russian Sambo background has also played a fundamental roll in her success as an MMA fighter.
Kosev is a 5 time World Champion in Competitive Sambo. He also currently holds a 4-1-0 record in MMA. When his competitive career is over, Kosev wants to become a Russian Sambo coach.
The World Sambo Championship and World Cup Sambo Championship-winning Kurzhev has also medalled in multiple Judo events.
Although less decorated in Russian Sambo competition itself than the other martial artists on this list (his big wins include 2nd place finishes in the World Cup in Sambo and the World Sambo Championships), The Pitbull did use his skills in Sambo to push him to a 27-18 record in MMA . He’s held the UFC Heavyweight Championship and currently holds multiple records in the promotion.
4 time Sambo World Champion, 4 time Russian National Champion, and 3 time Russian Presidential Cup Sambo Champion Minakov is a Russian Sambo and Judo fighter who is currently undefeated (21-0) in MMA.