The 13+ Best and Toughest Russian UFC Fighters: Past & Present

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russian ufc fighters.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the largest mixed martial arts organization in the world. In addition to its professional MMA events, the company also produces several other types of competitions, such as amateur fights and reality shows.

There are currently over 700 active fighters competing in the UFC, and they come from all around the globe.

Russia is famous for being tough country with tough people and even tougher fighters.  Not surprisingly, there are great Russian UFC fighters.

Today we’re looking at the best Russian fighters in the UFC. 

Who Do We Deem a Russian UFC Fighter?

russian ufc

This article is about UFC fighters who were born in any of the current internationally recognized 85 federal subjects of the Russian Federation. 

This means we are including fighters from such Russian republics like Dagestan and Chechnya, where the population is not ethnically Russian, but are considered citizens of the Russian federation.

As Khamzat Chimaev has said, “All nationalities in Russia go with one passport. We can say all Russians.”

In this article, we include Russian UFC fighters who may no longer live in the Russian Federation, but were born within its borders.

We also include fighters of Russian ethnicity who were born outside of the current internationally recognized borders of the Russian federation.

Way of the Fighter does not include the Crimea as part of the Russian federation.  

Who Are The Best Russian Fighters in UFC History?

Here are some of the top examples of true Russian UFC legends from past and present.

Khabib Nurmagomedov: The Eagle

Without question, the most famous Russian UFC fighter of all time is Khabib Nurmagomedov, also known as “the Eagle.” 

khabib the eagle.

In the words of Dana White, Khabib is the “baddest [expletive] on the planet,” and a look at some of his achievements give credence to this claim.

He is seen as one of the most legendary athletes in the sport.

Born in Dagestan in 1988, Khabib’s professional MMA career began in 2008 and ended in 2021. During that time, Khabib, who fought at lightweight, maintained an undefeated fight record of 29 wins, zero losses.

Khabib brought a strong background in Russian Sambo, Judo and wrestling to the octagon. This combination made him an intimidating opponent who overwhelmed his opponents with his suffocating pressure and masterful grappling technique, using his opponents like a grappling dummy.

Khabib began training in martial arts as a young child under the guidance of his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, a champion martial artist in the Soviet military and a highly esteemed fight trainer.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Khabib wrestled with bears as a child – which is not unusual in Dagestan. 

Before being signed by Dana White into the UFC in 2011, Khabib had earned two Russian championships in Russian Combat Sambo as well as two World Sambo titles as well as a M-1 Selection Championship. 

Despite these early achievements, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s name truly went mainstream thanks to his famous rivalry with Conor McGregor. The two fighters exchanged words outside the octagon and things soon escalated when Khabib confronted McGregor’s friend (and fellow Russian UFC fighter) Artem Lobov.

Conor McGregor and his entourage later ambushed the UFC bus carrying Khabib on the eve of UFC 233, and McGregor threw a dolly through the fighter bus window, injuring at least two fighters in the process. 

The Conor McGregor attack generated great interest in the Khabib vs McGregor fight and serious and casual fans broke pay-per-view records.

Ultimately, the fight saw Khabib knock down the Irishman with a strike and later it famously came to an end with Khabib Nurmagomedov submitting Conor McGregor with a neck crank.

The violence and animosity continued after the end of the fight, with Khabib climbing out of the octagon and attacking members of Conor McGregor’s corner, while Conor McGregor fended off attacks by two of Khabib’s cornermen, Zubaira Tukhugov (also a UFC fighter) and Esed Emiragaev. 

Such shows of violent loss of control were uncharacteristic of Khabib and came as a result of insults by McGregor to Khabib’s religion, family and culture in the lead up to the fight. 

After his dominant victory against McGregor, Khabib’s next fights had equally decisive finishes, against opponents with whom Khabib felt greater respect. 

Dustin Poirier was submitted by rear naked choke in 2019, and Justin Gaethje (yet another fighter with the worst cauliflower ears) was submitted by triangle choke in 2020. This was Khabib’s final fight, and was an emotional victory since he fought in honor of his recently deceased father who passed away that year of Covid.  

While no longer fighting, Khabib continues to train and has recently launched his own fight promotion called Eagle Fight Championship. He has recruited a number of former UFC fighters to join this promotion.

And there’s long been talks of a potential super-fight with legendary Canadian UFC fighter George St. Pierre, although it doesn’t look like it’ll ever happen.

Islam Makhachev: No Nickname Needed

Islam Makhachev is the lightweight champion and a terrifying Russian UFC fighter who draws many parallels with the great Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Like Khabib, Islam Makhachev is from Dagestan, he trained under Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov (Khabib’s dad), and he competes in the lightweight division.

Islam Makhachev won both the World and European Combat Sambo championships as well as four Russian championships before competing in MMA.

Makhachev has been fighting professionally since 2010 and has amassed an impressive fight record of 24-1.

Of his wins, 10 have been submission victories and 4 have been knockouts. Eight have been first round finishes. 

He has fought 12 fights in the UFC and has suffered his one professional loss in the promotion. This came in form of a knockout at the hands of Adriano Martins in 2015.

Apart from that loss, four of his eleven fights in UFC have been decisions in his favor.

Multiple attempts have been made to arrange a fight with Rafael dos Anjos however, each instance has resulted in either fighter being forced to withdraw for a variety of health reasons.

Today, Makhachev is coached by Khabib, making him an even more dangerous opponent for anyone in the lightweight division.

He won the UFC Lightweight title at UFC 280 against Charles Oliviera in a classic showdown of Sambo vs BJJ, submitting Charles with a head-and-arm choke in round 2.

He later defended his belt in a very close fight with featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. It was an incredible fight that you Must check out if you know what’s goof for ya.

Petr Yan: The Wild One With ‘No Mercy’

Petr Yan is the former interim title and undisputed champion in the UFC men’s Bantamweight division.

You know the phrase ‘scary Russian’?

It’s referring to people like Petr.

Even though he may be quite small by most people’s standards, I think we can all agree that he would be quite scary to run into in a dark alley.

petr yan no mercy.

Born in the Siberian city of Dudinka 1993, he is of mixed Russian and Chinese ethnicity. He began training in martial arts from a young age, initially in taekwondo and later in boxing. 

Today, his fighting style is rooted primarily in boxing and Muay Thai, and he trains with the American Top Team and Tiger Muay Thai gym in Phuket, Thailand.

He has been fighting professionally since 2014 and was signed by Dana White into the UFC in 2018.

With an impressive professional record of 16-3-0. He has bested opponents such as Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber, as well as one of the shortest UFC fighters, Jimmie Rivera, and one of the tallest in the division Cory Sandhagen.

Petr Yan has seven wins by knockout and one by submission. Of his victories, three are first-round finishes, and his aggressive style has earned him the nickname “No Mercy.” 

This no mercy reputation has caused him trouble from time to time as was seen when he was disqualified for an illegal knee in his fight with Aljamain Sterling.

This ultimately cost Yan his Bantamweight belt. And he then lost in the rematch and went on to lose a close fight with Sean O’Malley.

Valentina Shevchenko: The Russian ‘Secret Agent’

Valentina Shevchenko is a fighter born in Kyrgyzstan to Russian parents. And while she currently resides in Peru and has become a Peruvian citizen, she identifies herself as Russian. 

Valentina Shevchenko.

She has been fighting professionally in MMA since 2003.

And she is the former UFC Women’s Flyweight champion and still one of the top pound-for-pound women fighters in the world.

Her achievements in and out of the UFC are remarkable. 

While she started training Taekwondo when she was five years old, her training soon expanded to include a wide range of martial arts, including boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, and kickboxing. Valentina trains with Tiger Muay Thai

She has won 17 World Championship Titles in Muay Thai and a Russian Amateur National Championship, and her MMA fight record stands at 23-3.

Seven of her wins have been submission victories, and eight have been knockouts. Six of her wins have been first round finishes. 

She successfully defended her title seven times against the likes of Talia Santos, Lauren Murphy, Jessica Andrade, Jennifer Maia, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, just to name a few. 

Alexander Volkov: A Great Rising Talent

Hailing from Moscow, Alexander Volkov was born in 1988 and currently competes in the heavyweight division in the UFC where he is gaining some big wins against big-name opponents. 

Volkov started training in martial arts as a child and earned his first karate belt at nine years old. Today, his primary fighting style is a well-rounded blend of striking and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

He has earned a black belt in Tsu Shin Gen, and brown belts in both Kyokushin Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

With 45 fights under his belt since turning pro in 2009 (including 14 fights with the UFC), his fight record stands at 35-10-0.

Fifteen of Volkov’s wins have been first-round finishes and 22 have been knockout wins in addition to three by submission.

Volkov made his UFC debut in 2016 in a fight against Tim Johnson, which Volkov won by split decision. In the subsequent years with the UFC, he has won nine of his fourteen fights against opponents including Alistair Overeem, Roy Nelson, Greg Hardy and Fabricio Werdum.  

Prior to joining the UFC, Volkov was champion in the M-1 Global Heavyweight division (2016), and won two Grand Prix Bellator Fighting Championships at Heavyweight.

Khamzat Chimaev: A Real Goer

Although he immigrated to Sweden at 18, Khamzat was born in Chechnya in 1994, making him a de facto citizen of the Russian federation.

And while he has won multiple Swedish national championships in freestyle wrestling and holds a Swedish passport, he has also stated: “You can say I represent Russia.” 

With a strong background in wrestling which he began training as a child, Khamzat (or Borz meaning “Wolf” as he is commonly known), started MMA training at age 23 and turned professional in 2018.

In just a short time, Chimaev has racked up an impressive record of 12 wins and zero losses, including six in the UFC.

Only one of Khamzat’s wins has had to go to the scorecards — in one of his most recent fights against the more experienced opponent and former title challenger Gilbert Burns.

Apart from this, six have been knockout victories, and the remaining five have been submission wins.

Khamzat has quickly caught the attention of UFC commentators, and fighters have flocked to train with him, including Gustaffson and Daren Till, who have both expressed admiration for his skill and incredible stamina.   

Despite his short career in the UFC, there is already talk of Khamzat having a title shot if he wins against former welterweight champion Kamara Usman.

Khamzat has personal ties to Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and frequently appears in the leader’s social media posts, drawing criticism for the fighter’s association with a known human rights violator. 

Sergei Pavlovich: “The White Francis Ngannou”

Sergei Pavlovich is a prominent mixed martial artist from port-town Rostov-on-Don, Russia, known for his dominant skills in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight division.

Sergei was born on May 13, 1992, and made his professional MMA debut in 2014.

He’s a big burly fellow, standing 6 feet 3 inches tall (191 cm) and weighing around 260 pounds. He has a background in the Russian martial art Sambo where he built great skills in both striking and grappling.

He debuted in the UFC in 2018 and quickly gained a reputation for his powerful striking abilities and impressive knockout power.

His fighting style is characterized by aggressive stand-up techniques, utilizing his impressive reach (84 inches or 213 cm) and strength to overpower opponents.

His performances are often highlighted by his ability to end fights decisively, making him a thrilling fighter to watch and a serious threat to anyone in the heavyweight ranks.

His last fight was for the interim championship title against fellow heavyweight rising star Tom Aspinal.

It was a short-notice fight for both after the hotly anticipated match-up between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic fell through due to injury.

And the British UFC fighter Aspinall made quick work of the burly Russian by knocking him out just outside of 1 minute, but it’s certainly not the last we’ll see of this rising heavyweight beast.

Zabit Magomedsharipov

Zabit Magomedsharipov is yet another Dagestani fighter who captured the attention of fight fans during his short but impactful fight career in the UFC where he fought in the featherweight division. 

Born in 1991, Zabit began training in freestyle wresting from the age of 10 and gradually adopted kickboxing and finally focusing on Wushu-Sanda (also known as Chinese boxing) in 2003. 

He went on to win the European Wushu-Sanda Champion, the Wushu-Sanda World Cup, numerous Russia championships in Wushu-Sanda, and four Russian championships in Integrated Combat.

He moved to MMA fighting in 2012 and won the featherweight championship in the Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) fight promotion before making his UFC debut in 2017.

Zabit’s MMA fight record is 18 wins and 1 loss. All six of his UFC fights were victories. Three were submissions and three were unanimous decisions. 

In 2022 after an extended absence due to health problems, Zabit announced on social media his retirement and his intention to begin studying to be a medical doctor.

Askar Askarov

Fighting in the flyweight division of UFC, Askar Askarov is another mixed martial artist from Dagestan with a strong background in freestyle wrestling. Born in 1992, Askarov is deaf and grew up in a small village and began training in wresting from a very young age.

Askarov began fighting professionally in 2013 and his current fight record is 14-1-1. He previously fought in the Absolute Championship Berkut where he won the ACB Flyweight Championship. In 2017 he won gold representing Russia in freestyle wrestling at the Deaflympics. 

Askarov’s additional achievements include two Russian wrestling championships, a Dagestan Combat Sambo championship, a Dagestan MMA championship, and a Dagestan grappling championship – no small accomplishments given the amount of competition and talent in Dagestan. 

In the UFC, he has three wins, one draw and one loss and he is currently ranked third in the flyweight division. His victories are against Joseph Benavidez, Alexandre Pantoja and Tim Elliott while he drew in his debut UFC fight against Brandon Moreno.

His one loss was at the hands of Kai Kara-France and was a decision loss. 

Adlan Amagov

Born in 1986 in Chechnya, Adlan Amagov is now a retired UFC fighter who held a professional fight record of 13-2-1, including two fights in UFC – one at welterweight and one at middleweight.

Both of his UFC fights were victories. Amagov’s first fight in the UFC was against Chris Spång and resulted in a unanimous decision win.

His second fight was a decisive knockout win against TJ Waldburger. Amagov was on track for a title shot but pulled out due to an injury. 

After a short but promising career, Amagov withdrew from competing in MMA giving religious reasons. 

In a scene that one might find in a Martial Arts movie, in 2017 Amagov was involved in a violent encounter in Moscow involving rival Chechen business factions. Two men were killed and six were left with serious injuries.  In the altercation, Amagov stabbed a member of a rival faction in the altercation. 

MMA writer Karim Zidan has written an interesting article about Adlan Amagov which is worth reading to learn more about this fighter who had a great deal of potential in the UFC.

Umar Nurmagomedov

Born in Dagestan in 1996, Umar Nurmagomedov is the cousin of Khabib Nurmagomedov and fights in the bantamweight division of UFC. 

Fighting professionally since 2016, his professional fight record is 15-0 including 3 fights in the UFC, following his UFC debut in 2021. 

His victories have been convincing with four first round finishes, one knockout and seven submissions. Prior to joining the UFC, Umar won a World amateur MMA championship, and a World combat sambo championship. 

Umar has gone on record to say that his ambition is to repeat his cousin’s success and so far, with his undefeated fighting record, he seems to be on track to do just that. Time will tell as he faces increasingly challenging competitors. 

Movsar Evloev

Movsar Evloev was born in 1994 in Ingushetia, Russia. He belongs to the Ingush ethnic group. His martial arts training was initially in Greco-Roman wrestling before he began training MMA. 

Evloev has a perfect professional fight record of 16-0, including five wins in UFC where he fights at featherweight.

He is currently number 10 in the UFC featherweight fighter rankings. All of his UFC wins have been decision wins although he has three KO wins in the M-1 fight league as well as four submission victories. 

Fighting professionally since 2014, he is the former bantamweight champion in the M-1 Global fight promotion.

In addition to his fighting background, Movsar Evloev also has degrees in Computer Programming and Law. 

Abubakar Nurmagomedov

Abubakar is another member of the famous Nurmagomedov family to compete in the UFC. Abubakar Nurmagomedov is Khabib’s cousin and also fights in the UFC, however at welterweight. 

Born in 1989 in Dagestan, Abubakar Nurmagomedov started training freestyle wrestling as a child, like many of his countrymen. He then went onto train under his uncle Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, winning multiple bronze medals in the World Combat Sambo Championships.  

Since becoming pro in MMA fighting in 2011, Abubakar has earned a fight record of 16-3-1. Of his sixteen victories, half have been first round finishes, six have been knockouts and four have been submissions. 

As a Russian UFC fighter, he has two fights – one win and one loss, however he is a promising fighter and 

Abubakar Nurmagomedov was given a fine of $25,000 and a 12-month suspension in the UFC for his involvement in the brawl with McGregor’s corner following Khabib’s victory at UFC 229.

Aliaskhab Khizriev

Born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Aliaskhab Khizriev is a Russian UFC fighter who goes by the nickname “the Black Wolf.” He has an unblemished professional  fight record of 14-0 at middleweight.

Since turning professional in 2014, Khizriev has achieved five wins by knockout and five by submission and eight have been first round finishes. 

Khizriev joined the UFC in 2021 and his debut was a second round submission win by rear-naked choke against Denis Tiuliulin. Prior to this fight, Khizriev earned a similar victory by rear-naked choke against Henrique Shiguemoto in Dana White’s Contender Series.

Interestingly enough, Khizriev has degrees in finance and management.

How Many UFC Fighters Does Russia Have?

As of October 2023, the UFC lists 52 Russians among their catalog of fighters – both current and retired. This is incredible when you compare this to the number of African UFC fighters (which will certainly grow over time).

Of that total number of 52, 20 are listed as active, 29 are listed as not currently fighting (but remain under contract), and 3 are retired.

Of the total number of 52 Russians linked to the UFC, just a handful are women fighters. 

Interestingly, more than 11 of the 20 currently active Russian fighters in the UFC come from the mountainous Russian republic of Dagestan, making it the single most common birthplace for Russian UFC fighters. 

Who Are The Best Russian MMA Fighters Outside of the UFC?

Here are some of the top Russian MMA fighters from the past and present who for various reasons, have never fought in the UFC octagon.

Fedor Emelianenko: Considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, Emelianenko dominated PRIDE and other promotions but never signed with the UFC.

He has a record of 41-7, and 1 no contest.

And is a true savage often beating bigger, seemingly stronger opponents – including winning a fight just after getting thrown up in the air and dumped on his head.

Aleksander Emelianenko: Fedor’s younger brother, Aleksander was an intimidating heavyweight known for his aggressive style. He competed in PRIDE, M-1 Global, and other organizations and had a record of 23-7.

Sergei Kharitonov: A veteran heavyweight known for his boxing and kickboxing skills. Kharitonov fought in PRIDE, Strikeforce, M-1 Global and has a record of 26-6.

Vadim Nemkov: A light heavyweight who has found great success in Bellator MMA. He is currently Bellator’s light heavyweight champion with a record of 17-2.

Mamed Khalidov: A popular middleweight star in KSW in Poland. Khalidov has a record of 37-8-2 and is known for his well-rounded skills.

Shahbulat Shamhalaev: A featherweight who had success in Bellator and M-1 Global. He has a record of 12-3 and 1 no contest, with notable wins over Rad Martinez and Mike Richman.

Russian UFC Fighters in Conclusion

So there you have it folks. In this article we have looked at some of the most famous Russian UFC fighters past, present and future. 

MMA is a very popular sport in Russia. Many talented fighters come from the Russian federation and many more can be expected to emerge from the country. 

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.