Moscow hosts biggest MMA event in Eastern Europe
It is called M-1 Global, and this is a world where every fighter has the chance to find fame.
The M-1 selection tournaments aim to pick out the top MMA fighters from all over the globe – America, Europe and Asia – and sort out the very best of the best.
The most skillful Eastern European martial artists represented in five weight categories went face to face in Moscow in April.
They were watched by the man who had already been there and done that – Fedor Emelianenko – known as The Last Emperor of mixed martial arts, and today's best MMA fighter.
Two more VIP guests at ringside were the pride of Russian women’s boxing, world champion Natalya Ragozina, and Hollywood action movie star and former European karate champion, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The 50-year-old Belgian, who is still an idol for many martial arts fans all over the globe, confessed he was more than impressed with what he had seen.
“I didn't have the chance to learn Greco-Roman wrestling or sambo, because at that time it was not existing, especially in Belgium. So I started karate when I was 11 and that’s all I knew, which is not bad. And I think I brought a certain style of flexibility and different types of kicking – maybe that’s why people can appreciate me today. But I love MMA, because it combines techniques, flexibility and power,” said Van Damme.
Going back to the mat, all eyes were on the Russian fighters from the Sambo 70 club, who didn't let their glorious team mate Fedor Emelianenko down.
Dominating every aspect of the fight – that's the way one of Russia's main hopefuls in the light-heavyweight division, Viktor Nemkov, overcame Shamil Vaysurov – the Combat Sambo champion of Moscow in 2008.
Meanwhile, his teammate Vitaly Minakov and Ruslan Kabdulin represented a classic rivalry between a wrestler and a hand-to-hand fighter, where two-time world sambo heavyweight champion Minakov claimed a clear victory.
Meanwhile, the next clash turned out to be one of the toughest competitions in the under 93 kilos division. Russian Vyacheslav "Saint Fist" Vasilevsky opposed Ukraine's Sergey Guzev.
World combat sambo champion Vasilevsky was expected to dominate the fight, but the Ukrainian proved to be skillful, confident and tough.
As a result, he even looked a bit better during the first two rounds.
Although Saint Fist was keen to prove his nickname in the third – and reminded the crowd of one of the most famous Van Damme movies – "Bloodsport".
However, it was a split decision.
“My opponent turned out to be much tougher than I expected. I seemed to be slightly losing in the first two rounds. I gave my all in the third and I won it, but I still lacked power to knock him out,” Vasilevsky stressed.
The next stage of the Eastern European selection will take place in Kiev, Ukraine next month.