In the first of our Behind-the-Scenes short series with coaches and officials from all around the world, we caught up with Rishat Sayapov, President of RF-MMA to share his thoughts about their first tournament in 2021 and what is next for mixed martial arts in Russia.

GAMMA: Can you tell us a bit more about the first tournament that RF-MMA held for 2021? It seemed like COVID-19 did not have much of an impact on this.

Rishat Sayapov: The tournament was from February 4 to 7 and the Russian Championship RF-MMA was held in Moscow. It was for all ages and all weight categories.

There were 267 participants from 37 clubs in Russia.

Final placings

1st place – Republic of Dagestan
2nd place – Sverdlovsk region
3rd place – Lipetsk region

COVID-19 of course influenced the tournament. Fewer athletes participated than usual and spectators were not allowed.

The videos of selected finals are shown below.

GAMMA: Did you have to make changes to the tournament because of COVID-19?

RS: Yes, sure. It was necessary to observe the epidemiological norms: masks, gloves, antiseptics. You can’t let spectators in. I had to get more permission from the authorities.

GAMMA: What are the three most important skills (mental or physical) a young mixed martial arts athlete should develop?

RS: I think the three most important skills are:

mental skill – tactic fight

physical skills: BJJ and Muay Thai

GAMMA: How/when did you engage with martial arts for the first time?

RS: In 1979, I started boxing and competed in more than 200 fights. I was a member of the Russian national team.

Since 1990, I began to work as a kickboxing coach and from 2010, began to popularise and promote mixed martial arts.

I am also the organizer of the First MMA Championship in Tallinn, Estonia in 2012 together with the now-defunct WMMAF (World Mixed Martial Arts Federation).

GAMMA: How has martial arts helped you so far and how has it influenced the person you are today?

RS Martial arts is my life and my business!

GAMMA: Why did you choose mixed martial arts as a sport?

RS: The mixed martial arts include many different styles and techniques, and require the highest skill of an athlete.

GAMMA: What are your plans for RF-MMA going forward?

RS: We want to make the RF-MMA team the strongest in the world.

Organise Russian and international tournaments with the participation of cadets, juniors, and adults.

GAMMA: What is your vision of MMA in 10 years?

RS: I think in time there will be a clear transition between amateur and professional MMA, where the health and safety of athletes are protected and winners defined through a consistent and standardised set of technical and tactical rules.