Rising Star: Islam Makhachev's Sambo and UFC Legacy

Rising Star Islam Makhachev’s Sambo and UFC Legacy

In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), certain fighters stand out as dominant forces in their divisions. Islam Makhachev is undeniably one of those fighters. With a professional record of 25-1-0, he has climbed the ranks to become the current UFC Lightweight Champion. In this post, we’ll delve into the incredible journey and achievements of Islam Makhachev.

Islam Makhachev’s Early Life and Background

Islam Makhachev, born on October 27, 1991, in Makhachkala, Russia, had humble beginnings. He grew up in the remote village of Burshi in Dagestan, a region known for producing world-class MMA fighters. Makhachev’s family worked hard to make ends meet – his father as a tomato grower and driver, and his mother running a small cafe. Makhachev has an older brother named Kurbanismail, who also shares his passion for combat sports.

Makhachev’s journey into combat sports began at the age of 7 when he started practicing taekwondo under the guidance of decorated champion Seyfula Magomedov. However, he temporarily stepped away from combat sports to play soccer after his family relocated. Growing up in a culture where street fights were common, Makhachev engaged in many as a child. It was only when he transitioned to mixed martial arts under the tutelage of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father, that he began his path to greatness.

Despite facing challenges, Makhachev continued his education at Dagestan State University, where he studied physical education and sports. To support himself, he worked as a security guard, with a compassionate boss who allowed him to train during work hours and even covered his salary when he was away for competitions and training camps.

Sambo Success

Makhachev’s early exposure to different martial arts forms laid the foundation for his success in MMA. In 2016, he became a combat sambo world champion and a two-time Russian national champion at 74 kg (in 2014 and 2016). These achievements marked his transition from a promising prospect to a fighter to be reckoned with.

His sambo background contributed significantly to his success in MMA. Sambo is a versatile martial art that combines elements of judo and wrestling, emphasizing throws, submissions, and ground control. Makhachev’s skills in these areas set him apart from many opponents in the cage.

MMA Journey

Makhachev’s MMA journey began with M-1 Global. He won his debut fight against Tengiz Khuchua in 2011, showcasing his knockout power. His journey in M-1 Global continued with victories against Mansour Barnaoui, Rander Junio, and Yuri Ivlev.

In 2014, he signed a four-fight contract with the UFC. His debut in the UFC saw him submitting Leo Kuntz in the second round at UFC 187. While there was a minor setback in his early UFC career, with a knockout loss to Adriano Martins at UFC 192, Makhachev bounced back and established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Throughout his UFC career, Makhachev faced notable opponents like Nik Lentz, Kajan Johnson, and Drew Dober. He displayed his versatile skills, securing victories through a combination of submissions and dominant decision wins. His impressive win over Thiago Moisés at UFC on ESPN 26 earned him a rear-naked choke submission in the fourth round.

Makhachev’s approach in the octagon is a testament to his disciplined training and dedication to mastering various aspects of MMA. He combines striking and grappling techniques effectively, making him a well-rounded fighter who can adapt to different opponents and fight scenarios.

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UFC Lightweight Champion

Makhachev’s journey reached its pinnacle when he faced Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 280 on 22 October 2022. He won the title in the second round via an arm-triangle choke, securing the Performance of the Night bonus. In recognition of his remarkable achievements in martial arts, Makhachev was awarded the Order “For Merit to the Republic of Dagestan” in November 2022.

His first title defense against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 on 12 February 2023 ended in a unanimous decision victory, earning him the Fight of the Night bonus. Makhachev’s dominance in the lightweight division continues to impress fans and fellow fighters


Islam Makhachev’s remarkable journey from the remote village of Burshi in Dagestan to becoming the UFC Lightweight Champion is a testament to his unwavering dedication and exceptional skills. His background in taekwondo, coupled with the influence of fellow fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov, played a pivotal role in shaping his mixed martial arts career.

Makhachev’s achievements in combat sambo and his early wins in M-1 Global marked the beginning of a promising career in the UFC. Despite facing setbacks, including a suspension and canceled fights, Makhachev persevered and continued to climb the ranks. His recent victories and successful title defense showcase his dominance in the lightweight division. With a bright future ahead, Islam Makhachev has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of MMA

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