Kazakhstan’s Bagdat Zhubanysh has written himself into the history books on the final day of the 2021 IMMAF World Amateur MMA Championships, becoming the first fighter in IMMAF history to capture three world titles.

The 25-year-old strawweight earned his record-breaking gold medal by overcoming Russia’s Farkhod Rakhmonaliev via unanimous decision ( 29-28,29-28 and 30-26 ) inside a raucous Jiu-Jitsu arena in Abu Dhabi.

Rakhmonaliev did not make it easy for the reigning champion, and the opening frame was a cagey affair with both men looking to avoid giving their opponent an opening. The second round saw Rakhmonaliev do some of his best work of the fight, with the Russian’s grappling looking particularly impressive as he took the fight to Zhubanysh. 

In the final round, Zhubanysh showed his championship credentials as he dominated on the ground with a takedown in the last minute of the fight secured his victory.

The road to his third title was a winding one for Zhubanysh. Firstly the ongoing pandemic saw the 2020 World Championships canceled. Then, after a nearly two-year absence from the cage, he was set to return to action at the 2021 IMMAF European Championships before an injury forced his withdrawal from the event.  

To make things even more frustrating for Zhubanysh, the 2021 World Championships, which were initially meant to be held last November in Kazakhstan, were shifted to Abu Dhabi after an increase in Covid-19 cases in the Central Asian nation. However, he refused to let outside forces distract him from the task at hand, and his win over Rakhmonaliev now puts him in a class all of his own. 

Zhubanysh will likely make his way to the professional ranks, and it will be interesting to see what promotion he ends up fighting for. ONE Championship would seem a good fit, and there are plenty of exciting matchups to make if Zhubanysh signs with the Singapore-based promotion.

Bahrain’s Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa and Ramazan Gitinov were also in action on the final day, with both fighters successfully defending their titles. De Sousa defeated Norways’s Cecilie Bolander via unanimous decision to claim her second straight women’s featherweight world titles. At the same time, Gitinov captured his second welterweight world title with victory over Tajikistan’s Jovidon Mahmudov.

The week-long tournament saw over 400 fighters from more than 50 nations participating and demonstrated again the depth of talent that exists in the amateur scene. MMA is still a relatively young sport, but with events like the IMMAF World Championships taking place, it shows that the future of MMA is looking bright. Hopefully, it will not be long before the International Olympic Committee opens its doors and welcomes MMA into its fold.

IMMAF World Championships 2021 World Champions

  • Male Super Heavyweight: Shamsutdin Makhmudov (Russia)
  • Male Heavyweight: Magomed Shakhrudinov (Bahrain)
  • Male Light Heavyweight: Dzhamal Medzhidov (Russia)
  • Male Middleweight: Fergus Jenkins (New Zealand)
  • Male Welterweight: Ramazan Gitinov ( Bahrain)
  • Female Lightweight: Olga Lagodnaya (Kazakhstan)
  • Male Lightweight: Kurban Idrisov (Russia)
  • Female Featherweight: Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa ( Bahrain)
  • Male Featherweight: Bekzat Zhassiya ( Kazakhstan)
  • Female Bantamweight: Nina Nikolija Milosevic ( Sweeden)
  • Male Bantamweight: Shakhban Gapizov (Russia)
  • Female Flyweight: Beatriz Consuli Diniz ( Kazakhstan)
  • Male Flyweight: Bektur Zhenishbek Uulu ( Russia)
  • Female Strawweight: Aieza Ramos Bertolso (Bahrain)
  • Male Strawweight: Bagdat Zhubanysh (Kazakhstan)