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Fresh off capturing a win at the 2020 Sambo World Championships, Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev is riding a high. Fighting at 68 kilograms, Sheikh-Mansur defeated Bulgaria’s Emil Nezirov to clinch the gold medal at the tournament as the seven seed. Sheikh-Mansur spoke with us after winning the championship and we got to know the Russian champion a little more!
Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev started as a judoka. While he spent time in the sport of judo, it wasn’t his calling, instead, he found sambo. While his judo experience helped him, it wasn’t until he took up sambo that Sheikh-Mansur really hit his stride.
“As a child, I was engaged in judo and had a dream to become a World Champion. But over time I was bad at fighting in judo and I decided to switch to sambo. When I started performing in sambo, everything started to work out for me and immediately fell in love with this sport and set myself the task of becoming the World Champion in sambo. With the help of the Almighty, I managed to do it.”
Sheikh-Mansur isn’t a one trick pony either. In addition to sambo, he still practices judo, as well as several other martial arts. He hopes to be well rounded and practices in his free time to be the best martial artist there is.
“In addition to sambo, I like to run cross, I also like other sports, like judo, taekwondo, karate, freestyle wrestling, boxing, in my spare time I try to sit these sports I want to be strong from all sides.”
While he won the Combat Sambo 68 kilo World Championship, Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev isn’t very happy with his performance. “I was very dissatisfied with my last performance,” says Sheikh-Mansur. “I could of course show my bridge even better, there were many mistakes that need to be corrected and improved.”
Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev Fighting for Glory
With the myriad of sports practiced by Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev, MMA is in question as well. He’s fought in mixed martial arts before, but hasn’t found the right promotion to fit himself. Sheikh-Mansur sees MMA as another opportunity to challenge himself as a martial artist and another mountain to scale to become a well rounded fighter.
“In MMA, I also fought, of course. I will always be interested in competitive events, because this is a good test of myself and my capabilities. It is always interesting to know what you are capable of. If there are serious proposals, then I am ready to fight in MMA and show my skills in this sport.”
It is many fighter’s goal to fight for the glory. Since the dawn of wrestling, the oldest combat sport, fighters have been fighting to be known as the best fighter known. That primitive and raw goal is the same for Sheikh-Mansur. He puts his faith in God that he will become just that, as long as He wills it. “My further goals in sambo, I want the whole world to hear about the name of ‘Sheikh-Mansur.’ I want to show my skills to the whole world, I want to become one of the best sambo wrestlers in the world and, In Sha Allah, I will become.”
Growing in the Shadow of Giants
On his Instagram, Sheikh-Mansur has a video of the great Muhammad Ali who is known for his outspoken nature about fighting, race and faith. When asked if he looked up to Ali, Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev said he looks up to him, but not only as an athlete. “Muhammad Ali inspires me, he was not only a good athlete, but also a good man, he is an example for many of what a real champion should be, he was the best in his field.”
In theme with glory and great champions, two of MMA’s biggest stars are former sambo champions. Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov trailblazed the sport for the west and the entire world. Sheikh-Mansur compares them to Muhammad Ali in their character, and also looks up to them for their contributions to sambo and his home country of Russia.
“Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov, these two most dangerous fighters of the whole world, in our time, they have made an invaluable contribution to the development of not only sambo, but the whole sport in Russia in general, and as a person they set a good example for young people.”
While Fedor and Khabib are an inspiration to Sheikh-Mansur, he’s intent on carving his own path in sport. Instead of being compared to the best the world knows, Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev wants to be mentioned with the best in the world.
“But I don’t want to be Emelianenko or Khabib, I want to be remembered as Sheikh-Mansur as one of the best athletes in the history of sports in our world. It is very important to be yourself and not someone else.”
Finally, Sheikh-Mansur sends words of inspiration to everyone. He was counted out and fell short. But, his perseverance saw him become World Champion, the best in his sport. It was his hard work, but more importantly, his faith, that led him to the status of world champion.
“All their life they did not believe in me, they said that I would never become a World Champion. They said that it was not for people like me. But I didn’t want to give up, I didn’t want to give up my dream. I believed in myself and in Allah Almighty. I knew if I try and work hard, then my creator Allah will reward me for my labors and efforts all praise be to Allah.”
Then, being a man of faith, Sheikh-Mansur, the Combat Sambo World Champion ends with a statement of faith. “Allahu Akbar.”
Follow Sheikh-Mansur Khabibulaev on Instagram to follow his journey through sambo and beyond.