Kazakhstani Combat Sports Prospects to Watch in 2024: Unveiling the Future of MMA and Boxing

1. Shavkat Rakhmonov (18-0-0)

The Rise of Shavkat Rakhmonov in the MMA World

Shavkat Bakhtibayuly Rakhmonov, a name synonymous with resilience and unparalleled skill in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), has quickly ascended the ranks to become one of Kazakhstan’s most formidable fighters. Born into a Kazakh family on October 23, 1994, in Shurchi, Uzbekistan, Rakhmonov’s journey from a financially struggling family to the pinnacle of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a testament to his unwavering dedication and inherent talent. Now competing in the welterweight division of the UFC, he holds the distinction of being a former M-1 Global Welterweight Champion and, as of the end of 2023, ranks #3 in the UFC welterweight rankings.

Background and Early Achievements

Rakhmonov’s early life was marked by hardship and a move to Karagandy, Kazakhstan, where he began working as a truck and warehouse loader to support his family. His foray into combat sports began with combat sambo, laying the foundation for what would become a decorated career in MMA. His academic pursuit in physical education at Kokshetau State University further honed his discipline and understanding of the physical dynamics essential for combat sports. Rakhmonov’s achievements in the amateur MMA circuit, including clinching the WMMAA World and Asian Championships titles, showcased his potential early on.

UFC Success and Legacy

Since making his professional debut in 2014 with a victory via a triangle choke, Rakhmonov’s career trajectory has been nothing short of meteoric. His entry into the UFC marked a significant milestone, not only for him but also as he became the first Kazakh fighter to sign with the organization. Rakhmonov’s UFC journey has been marked by several notable victories, including his submission win over Stephen Thompson at UFC 296, where he became the first to finish Thompson by submission. His performances have earned him multiple ‘Performance of the Night’ awards and the ‘Fight of the Night’ accolade, solidifying his status as a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division.

Rakhmonov’s unwavering focus, coupled with his adeptness in both striking and grappling, makes him one of the most well-rounded and formidable fighters in the division. His story from the modest beginnings in Uzbekistan to the bright lights of the UFC serves as an inspiration to aspiring fighters worldwide, proving that with talent, hard work, and resilience, one can achieve greatness in the competitive arena of mixed martial arts.

2. Janibek Alimkhanuly (15-0-0)

From Amateur Golds to Professional Glory

Born into a boxing family, Janibek Alimkhanuly’s journey from his first fight at the tender age of six to becoming a unified middleweight champion is a riveting tale of passion and perseverance. His amateur career, decorated with gold medals at prestigious championships such as the 2013 World Championships and the 2014 Asian Games, set the stage for a seamless transition into the professional ranks. Since turning pro in 2016 with a spectacular first-round knockout, Alimkhanuly’s ascent in the boxing world has been meteoric, culminating in holding both the WBO and IBF middleweight titles by October 2023. His achievements not only highlight his exceptional talent but also underscore Kazakhstan’s rich boxing heritage.

Dominance in the Middleweight Division

Alimkhanuly’s professional record is a testament to his dominance in the middleweight division. His progression from winning the WBO Interim title to being elevated as the full champion, and eventually securing the IBF title, showcases his relentless pursuit of greatness. Key victories over seasoned fighters, including a notable win against Rob Brant and a technical knockout against Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, underline his superiority and adaptability in the ring. These triumphs, coupled with his disciplined approach and technical proficiency, have solidified his status as a formidable force in the middleweight category.

A Unified Champion with a Vision

The unification bout against Vincenzo Gualtieri in October 2023 was a defining moment in Alimkhanuly’s career, marking him as the second Kazakh boxer to become a unified middleweight champion. Under the guidance of esteemed trainers like Brian Viloria and Buddy McGirt, Alimkhanuly has refined his skillset, blending power and precision to vanquish opponents. Beyond the ring, his interests in nutrition, pottery, and language learning paint the picture of a well-rounded individual who values personal growth. As Alimkhanuly continues to build his legacy, his journey from a young hopeful to a unified world champion remains an inspiration for aspiring boxers worldwide.

Alimkhanuly’s trajectory in boxing mirrors the dedication and resilience required to reach the pinnacle of this demanding sport. With an unblemished professional record and a clear vision for the future, his story is far from over. The boxing world watches with bated breath as this Kazakhstani prodigy aims to further his legacy and cement his place among the middleweight greats.

3. Bekzat Almakhan (11-2-0)

The Rise of Kazakhstan’s Bantamweight Phenom in the UFC

Bekzat “The Turan Warrior” Almakhan, hailing from Uzynagash, Kazakhstan, is a formidable presence in the UFC’s bantamweight division. With a professional record boasting 11 wins and 2 losses, he is currently the top-ranked bantamweight fighter in Central Asia. Almakhan is known for his striking prowess, as highlighted by his impressive 9 wins by knockout and 7 first-round finishes, demonstrating his ability to end fights quickly and decisively​​.

From Uzynagash to UFC Stardom

Almakhan made a significant leap in his career by signing with the UFC, joining the ranks of Kazakh fighters like Shavkat Rakhmonov who have made an impact on the global stage. Despite the majority of his victories coming through knockouts, Almakhan is not just a striker; his record also includes wins by submission, showcasing his versatility in the octagon. His UFC debut was keenly anticipated as a milestone for Kazakh representation in elite-level MMA, further emphasizing the growing influence of fighters from Kazakhstan in the sport.

Training For Triumph

Training out of Triumph Fights in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almakhan brings the rigorous preparation and fighting spirit honed in one of the country’s top gyms to the UFC. His journey from a promising prospect to a contender in the bantamweight division is a testament to his skill, dedication, and the quality of training available in Kazakhstan. As he continues to compete against the best in the world, Almakhan aims not only to solidify his place in the UFC but also to inspire future champions from his homeland​

4. Sultan Zaurbek (17-0-0)

Kazakhstan’s Featherweight Prodigy Eyeing World Title Glory in 2024

Sultan Zaurbek, an unbeaten Kazakhstani featherweight, is rapidly becoming one of the most talked-about fighters in the boxing world. His formidable presence in the ring, backed by a perfect record, has sent a clear message to division champions: their reign is on borrowed time. Zaurbek’s recent long-term promotional contract with Wasserman Boxing, announced ahead of a crucial fight in Telford, positions him strategically for a world title shot in the coming year. His ambition is clear: to bring the world title back to Kazakhstan, a goal he pursues with the lethal precision that has defined his career thus far​​.

Knockout King Sultan Zaurbek Dominates Super Featherweight Division

Zaurbek’s journey through the 130lbs division has been nothing short of spectacular, with a series of ruthless stoppages that underline his status as a force to be reckoned with. Ranked No. 5 by the World Boxing Association and within the top 15 of the International Boxing Federation, Zaurbek’s recent victory against Victor Julio is a testament to his power and skill. His record, highlighted by a high knockout rate, emphasizes his claim as the most lethal fighter in his division. With Wasserman Boxing’s support, Zaurbek is not just aiming for the top; he’s on a mission to redefine dominance in the super featherweight class​​.

A New Era for Kazakhstani Boxing

The 27-year-old’s career is a beacon of inspiration for aspiring boxers in Kazakhstan and beyond. Zaurbek’s seamless blend of power and tactical acumen in the ring has already earned him a significant following. As he prepares for future bouts with the world’s best fighters, his goal remains unwavering: to secure a world title and further establish Kazakhstan’s legacy in professional boxing. His recent performances suggest that he’s well on his way to achieving this, marking the dawn of a new era for Kazakhstani fighters on the global stage​​.

5. Asu Almabaev (18-2-0)

Rapid Rise in MMA

Asu Almabaev, known in the fighting world as “Zulfikar,” has carved a niche for himself in the flyweight division, showcasing his skills on a global stage with an impressive record of 18-2-0. His recent performances, especially his victory over Ode Osbourne at UFC on ESPN 50 via a rear-naked choke, have put the flyweight division on notice. Almabaev’s ability to finish fights, with 9 wins by submission and 3 by knockout, underscores his versatility and technical proficiency inside the octagon​​​​.

Aiming for UFC Glory

Almabaev’s journey in MMA is distinguished not just by his winning record but also by his ambition to rise to the top of the UFC flyweight division. His debut in the UFC was marked by a remarkable submission victory, reflecting his readiness for higher-level competition. With a 14-fight win streak and notable wins over seasoned fighters like Zach Makovsky and Chris Kelades, Almabaev is eyeing further success in the UFC, backed by his formidable grappling skills and striking accuracy​​​​.

A Fighter’s Background

Originating from Kazakhstan, Almabaev’s commitment to martial arts began at a young age. Before joining the ranks of the UFC, he was already a champion in other promotions, holding titles in both the NFC and M-1 Global. His path to the UFC was driven by a deep-rooted passion for combat sports, inspired by figures like Gennadiy Golovkin, and a determination to bring UFC glory back to his homeland. Almabaev is a testament to the rising talent coming from Kazakhstan, aiming to make a significant impact in the flyweight division​​.

Almabaev represents the new wave of talent in mixed martial arts, with his eyes firmly set on the UFC flyweight championship. His journey from the city market to the UFC octagon is a story of dedication, skill, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As he prepares for his upcoming fights, the MMA community watches with anticipation, eager to see how far this Kazakhstani fighter will go in his quest for UFC gold.