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Hailing from Russia, Marina Merchuk is no stranger to fighting. Combat sports are among the largest in her country and with Merchuk perusing kickboxing, she’s started her own journey through the sport of fighting. Under the tutelage of Vladimir Turchenko, who is also the striking coach of UFC heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov, Merchuk is on a path to what she believes will carry her to UFC gold and glory.
Merchuk started off kickboxing a little backwards. Normally it’s a kickboxer going to MMA. But in her case, she transitioned to kickboxing from MMA. While she knew nothing of the sport, her coach saw something in her.
“Initially, I came to mixed martial arts and that was in 2016. As luck would have it, a friend of mine met a fighter/coach and talked about me and my dream to be a fighter. The coach got interested and invited me to training the very next day. There he appreciated my technical ability and said that I am 0, but with character.”
But the switch to kickboxing from MMA was always for mixed martial arts. Marina Merchuk has fallen in love with kickboxing and even if she transitions back to MMA, which she intends to, she still plans to continue kickboxing.
“After 1.5 years, I realized that for MMA you still need to set a base and I decided to strike, because I always wanted to work in a rack. At the end of 2017, I switched to kickboxing over to coach Vladimir Turchenko. I have been performing in kickboxing for 4 years now, and with the transition to MMA, I plan to continue performing in kickboxing.”
The pandemic changed the lives and routines of fighters worldwide. But for Merchuk, she took the opportunity of a shut in to better herself to get ahead of the game. When it was announced, she moved into the gym and got straight to work. Now, she’s become a better fighter because of it.
“To be honest, when it was announced that everyone was being ‘closed’ to their homes, literally that very evening, I packed my things and moved to the gym. Throughout the pandemic, I lived in the gym and trained with the girl on command and the coach. We followed all the precautions and only went to the grocery store.
We trained 2 times every day and gave all the best. The only thing missing was sparring with other fighters, but we worked in pairs with the girl between ourselves and with the coach. So we lived in the gym for about 8 months, maybe more.”
Again, Merchuk says that stay in the gym has brought her skills to the next level. She says, “I am very glad that I made such a decision, because this period greatly affected my growth as an athlete.”
Outside of fighting, Marina Merchuk is concentrated on becoming a better human. She spends her time trying to become a better person. And there are also some hobbies she’d like to pick up in the future as well.
“I am very interested in human psychology, dietetics and nutritionology, spiritual self-development, reading books. I like to take part in various photo and video filming. I really want to learn how to sing and soon I plan to start singing.”
Marina Merchuk and the Sport of Kickboxing
Marina Merchuk fights K-1 style of kickboxing. That is full contact kickboxing with full emphasis on action. The K-1 promotion in Japan trailblazed the way for this style of kickboxing. Merchuk was drawn to that form of kickboxing due to its’s realism.
“There are several sections in kickboxing, I perform in the toughest section: K1. Of course, I like the fact that I can use punches and kicks in combat. I really like the style of K-1, movement, work in the ligaments of the arms and legs. The fact that there is not just a felling, but a smart box. You need to be able to catch the moment, timing, and focus. I believe that K-1 differs from other striking sports in its unique style. To understand this, you need to feel it.”
Kickboxing has been Marina Merchuk’s true love but she hasn’t left MMA and has recently returned to the sport. While she hopes to be in the UFC, her goals are the same in even if she goes to MMA: World Champion.
“If we talk about goals in sports, then of course I want to become the World Kickboxing Champion, achieve incredible results and be the absolute champion in professional sports. I want to continue doing kickboxing and recently I returned to MMA. Of course, I want to reach the highest level in professional MMA, I want to go to the UFC. I want to show some spectacular fights and get the UFC belt.”
While sport can take an athlete around the world. While it’s nice, it’s really the fight that Merchuk enjoys. Getting in camp and getting to fight day is really what gets her going in the morning.
“Honestly, speaking for me, it is not so important where the fights or competitions will take place. I enjoy the process itself and the fact that I can show a spectacular fight.”
But in those travels, it’s been the fight environments themselves and seeing the fans around the world and their love for kickboxing that Merchuk really enjoys.
“In general, I really liked the Russian k1 championship in Yakutia, in 2021. The Yakuts organized the competition at the highest level. It was nice to see this attitude towards athletes. I think partly I liked this championship because we managed to show good fights and become champions. Also, I really like the organization of competitions in Europe. For example, in Hungary at the World Cup. Everything was very organized and the rivals were world-class.”
Merchuk continues, “I also went to China for a professional MMA fight. I can say that the Chinese are very cool in professional tournaments. The organization and attitude towards the fighters is great. The Chinese can really do a “show”. I liked very much that despite the fact that I am a foreigner and fought against a Chinese woman, the Chinese still supported me very much and rooted for me.”
Kickboxing and The Olympics
Kickboxing, Sambo and Muay Thai were announced to receive recommendation to join the Olympic Games. With five sports already a part, kickboxing would be right at home in the Games. While other sports are trying to get into the Olympics, kickboxing seems to be well on it’s way. Marina Merchuk says this would be a dream come true. But she’s not interested in becoming a point fighter. Instead, she hopes it is the K-1 ruleset that she’s fallen in love with.
“I am insanely happy about this news. I believe that kickboxing has long deserved to be considered an Olympic sport; it’s spectacular fights. The only thing is that there are several sections in kickboxing and it has not yet been decided which section they will choose as the Olympic one. I would really hope that this will be K-1. If they do K-1, then I would really like to get to the Olympic Games and, of course, win!”
An up and coming star in the sport, Merchuk has surrounded herself with all the right pieces. It’s only a matter of time before she breaks through in kickboxing and mixed martial arts.