Another martial arts star takes on Moscow
Moscow welcomed Zambidis, a 15-time world kickboxing champion and one of the brightest K-1 stars.
This time out the Athens native faced another challenge at the Arbat Fight club in downtown Moscow – with the W-5 Grand-Prix championship belt at stake, three other warriors in the competition, and Russia's brightest hope in the welterweight division, Batu Hasikov, watching him from ringside.
The man known as Batu Khan was keen to outshine another K-1 legend, Albert Kraus, who he took on at the Fight Nights tournament held in Moscow last month. After defeating the Dutchman by unanimous decision, Hasikov claimed that he wanted Zambidis next on his way to K-1 glory.
Back to the ring, Enrike Gogokhiya, a young and ambitious fighter from Ukraine, was quick to shock the crowd. The 19 year old knocked Zambidis down in the first round of their semifinal clash.
But class is class. Gogokhiya started to run out of fuel little by little, while Iron Mike, passionately supported by the Muscovites, held firm and regained what he lost to take the bout to an extra round, which he simply dominated.
Zambidis had one more warrior to see off on way to the W-5 title, though – Dzhabar Askerov, who had previously beaten Dutchman William Diender.
The Dagestan-born Russian, now representing the United Arab Emirates, had old scores to settle with Zambidis. They first came face to face in 2009, and it was the Greek who won by a majority decision then. Askerov, with his longer reach, knew the key was in keeping his feet and knees busy, while there are few better punchers in K-1 than Zambidis.
At first Iron Mike looked to have the edge, with Dzhabar seeking an elusive knockout. Three rounds of evenly matched action echoed throughout the arena.
A hard task for the judges, it turned out to be a unanimous decision, adding another title to Mike Zambidis's collection.
However, a new challenge for Zambidis is coming from Russia again.
“We're going to start negotiating with Mike Zambidis about our fight right away. My team wants to arrange this fight in Moscow, within the Fight Nights tournament. And I'm sure Mike won't have a problem,” Batu Hasikov said afterward.
“I watched the bout between Hasikov and Kraus. And I didn't expect Batu to win. That proves he's a very good fighter. And I'm ready to take him on,” Zambidis said in reply.