20 Best Russian MMA Fighters Ever

20 Best Russian MMA Fighters Ever

Just as football is to the Brazilians, marathon sprints to the Kenyans, Jamaicans, and Ethiopians, basketball to the Americans, and Mixed Martial Arts present the same allure to the Russians.

It is thus not surprising that Russia boasts of some of the most incredible and talented MMA fighters on the planet.

Russians dominate astoundingly in every MMA promotion, from the least ranked to the top.

In fact, among the legends of the MMA sports, Russians boast of some of the prominent members.1

Numerous explanations can be given to decipher this incredible reality.

Still, one indisputable fact that would remain central to any explanation is that Russians have a keen and intense love for sports.

Thus, it is not surprising that the country boasts many MMA promotions and some of the most dreaded champions in history.

While several Russians reign supreme in the sport, narrowing the list to the top 20 greatest is no small feat.

However, we have managed to complete that, and we present the 20 best Russian MMA fighters in history.

Factors considered in our ranking include titles won, number of fights, number of losses, and weight class.

Best Russian MMA Fighters

20. Pete Yan

Pete Yan
Pete Yan / Instagram
  • Nickname: No Mercy
  • Division: Bantamweight
  • Fighting Record: 16-3

What other way beats learning MMA than from the cold streets of Dudinka, a town in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia?

That street-inspired love for Taekwon-do soon became a burning passion for mixed martial arts.

As a result, Pete Yan began training, specializing in boxing at first before moving on to other arts.

In December 2014, he came on to the Eurasian Fighting Championship – Baikal Fight scene; his top performance in his debut bout earned him a contract with Absolute Championship Berkut.

In his debut in the promotion, his performance soon made him the subject of fan love.

His top talent soon saw him emerge as ACB Bantamweight Champion, and the UFC came calling on January 20-8.

Once he debuted in the UFC, it was clear the promotion was his new home, and he worked his way up to becoming UFC Bantamweight Champion.

Petr Yan remains one of the toughest stars in the UFC Bantamweight division.

19. Ibragim Magomedov

  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 31-8

The only major shortcoming of Ibragim Magomedov’s 12-year MMA career is that he never competed in intensely competitive North American promotions.

This may be a major reason why many never consider him one of the best fighters.

But considering how hard he fought in the European promotions he started in, Magomedov deserves our credit and more.

Magomedov was discovered by Satoru Sayama and fought for many years in European MMA promotions, where he achieved the bulk of his success.

In 2005, he made it to the Pride promotion and appeared in the Pride Critical Countdown 2005 tournament.

Though he lost the event at Pride, he recorded stellar performances in several other bouts before he called it quit on MMA in 2012.

18. Mikhail Malyutin

  • Division: Bantamweight
  • Fighting Record: 37-14

A force in the Akhmat Fight Club, Mikhail Malyutin’s name may not be widely known, but he has proven to be a beast in the rings.

Though little is known about him and how his career took off, the star is earnestly seeking more color and honor in his fighting portfolio.

His affiliation with a renowned fighting club that has produced some of the best MMA fighters in Russia has made him a favorite among Russian MMA fans.

Mikhail Malyutin currently has his sight on domination of the newly founded Russian promotion, Eagles Fighting Championship.

Should he dominate the promotion, he could as well be invited to showcase the wonders of his talents to North American fans.

17. Roman Zenstov

  • Nickname: The Russian Hammer
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 18-12

When you consider the caliber of fighting in which Roman Zenstov received tutelage, you begin to understand his inclusion in our list.

Trained by some of the best Russian MMA stars, prominent of which is Fedor Emelianenko, Zenstov has learned from the best.

And as such is dominating among his contemporaries.

So far, Zenstov has competed in Russian promotions such as M-1 Global and 2 Hot 2 Handle, won several laurels, and earned multiple honors. 

16. Bozigit Ataev

Bozigit Ataev
Bozigit Ataev / Instagram
  • Nickname: Wolf
  • Division: Light Heavyweight, Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 20-5

After years of teaching the years and rudiments of mixed martial arts in the esteemed Five Directions of the World sports-boarding school, Bozigut Ateav revealed himself to the MMA world.

Straight from Five Directions of the World, Ateav entered the Pride Fighting Championship but suffered an early setback in his debut bout as he lost. His early years were rife with struggles as he suffered multiple losses.

He went on to the Professional Fighters League, and though he suffered yet another set of early setbacks, he soon returned on track.

His rejuvenated performance established him as a top-rated star and one of the most prominent Russian MMA stars on the European scene.

Though he has completed his career in Europe, Ateav may be looking forward to testing the waters of North America MMA action.

15. Dennis Siver

Dennis Siver
Source: Wikimedia
  • Division: Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight
  • Fighting Record: 23-11

Though Siver fights as a German, the MMA star was born in Omsk, Russia, during the Soviet Union era and embraced MMA as early as his teenage years.

By 15 years, Siver was training in Judo and Sambo and quickly moved on to kickboxing and taekwondo.

His zeal for the sport moved him to leave his hometown to train in Germany, where his MMA professional career began.

After years dedicated to training, he began fighting in MMA bouts in England and Russia before he was called on to the UFC.

Dennis Siver had multiple runs in the UFC, but his first few years in the promotion were not impressive as he was released after four fights.

He soon returned to the UFC and fought in multiple bouts but never won a title.

After years in the promotion, Siver left the UFC for good and returned to the Absolute Championship Akhmat

14. Magomed Sultanakhmedov

  • Nickname: White Wolf
  • Division: Middleweight
  • Fighting Record: 18-6

Before his prime and approaching his forties, whatever mark Magomed Sultanakhmedov hoped to make in MMA, the time has long passed for such.

All his career, Magomed Sultanakhmedov fought in the Russian MMA scene.

Though he became prominent in Russia, his fame never extended the boundaries of Jim’s home country, much less Europe.

13. Aleksei Oleinik

Aleksei Oleinik
Aleksei Oleinik / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Boa Constrictor
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 60-16

Even in his forties, Aleksei Oleinik remains a force to be feared in MMA.

He is undoubtedly one of the top fighters Russia has ever produced, as he competes in the toughest MMA promotion globally and has made his mark in the promotion.

He ventured into the MMA to prove himself to be strong, and thus he fought in promotions such as M1- Global.

Following his brief stint at M1-Global, he had another brief stint with Bellator MMA.

Then he came on the radars of the UFC, which soon recruited him to the promotion in November 2013.

Since then, he has continually fought in the UFC, but his hopes for a title win have continued to be dashed.

During his MMA career, Aleksei Oleinik has made a name for himself thanks to his amazing grappling skills, which have led to the defeat of numerous opponents.

Aleksei Oleinik’s record is incredible as he has fought in over 60 MMA bouts and won 60 of these bouts, a noteworthy feat for the MMA star.

12. Mamed Khalidov

Mamed Khalidov
Mamed Khalidov / Instagram
  • Nickname: Cannibal
  • Division: Middleweight, Light Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 35-8

Mamed Khalidov may fight as a Polish star, but his Russian roots are undeniable.

Born in the present day, the Chechen Republic, he began training in the ways of martial arts as young as the age of 12.

He started with the Japanese martial arts, Kyokushin, where he eventually got to hold a black belt.

Despite fleeing from Russia to Poland, his love for martial arts never died, as he still began practicing other ways of martial arts.

Throughout his early years, Mamed Khalidov learned various martial arts disciplines, including Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Grappling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

He soon debuted in a professional MMA contest and fought in the Elite Xtreme Combat promotion.

After the dissolution of EliteXC, he returned to the Polish Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW), where he began his career.

Since his return to the promotion in 2008, Mamed Khalidov has remained there and dominated the promotion.

He has won the KSW Middleweight Championship and the KSW Light Heavyweight Championship.

11. Andrey Semenov

Andrey Semenov
Andrey Semenov / Instagram
  • Nickname: White Shark
  • Division: Middleweight
  • Fighting Record: 34-9-2

Now making a foray into the world of make-believe, The White Shark is still known for his excellent MMA exploits since he began fighting professionally in 1998.

Andrey Semenov first had a decade-long stint in the MMA and then retired from the sport.

However, three years after retiring, he concluded retirement doesn’t suit him just yet and thus returned to the M1-Global promotion in 2011. Since then, he has remained in the MMA, albeit inactive. 

In the early years of his career, Andrey Semenov fought in the UFC.

Though he fought in just two bouts, we can not tell the circumstances that saw his departure from the promotion.

However, since he left the UFC, he has gone on to dominate the M1-Global promotion, where he was crowned Middleweight Champion.

10. Alexander Sarnavskiy

Alexander Sarnavskiy
Alexander Sarnavskiy / Instagram
  • Nickname: Tiger
  • Division: Lightweight
  • Fighting Record: 40-8

A veteran of the sport, Alexander Sarnavskiy is still

crushing bones, inflicting excruciating pains and bringing in stunning victories years after making his debut.

Fairly young, but compared to a vast majority of his peers, Alexander Sarnavskiy has fought in more bouts and has tasted the sweet allure of victory on numerous occasions.

He started his MMA career at M1-Global and quickly created a solid reputation for himself after creating an 8-0 record in the first few bouts of his career.

This made him a force in the league, and soon Bellator MMA came calling.

He joined Bellator MMA in 2012 and fought in the promotion until 2015.

After Bellator MMA, he had a brief stint with the Eurasia Fight Nights Global (EFN).

However, he found a permanent home in the Absolute Championship Berkut, where he has been since 2016.

Should Alexander Sarnavskiy add a championship to his stellar fighting record, his place among the best Russian stars in MMA history would rank considerably higher.

9. Oleg Taktarov

Oleg Taktarov
Oleg Taktarov / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Russian Bear
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record:17-56

Retired from the ways of the martial arts and fully immersed in the make-believe world, Oleg Taktrov is an icon beloved by the Russians.

As early as age 12, Oleg Taktarov had begun learning Sambo and Judo and embraced other combat styles due to his obligatory military service.

But by 22, after retiring from anything related to combat sports, he soon fell back into the hands of combat sports.

However, his involvement in the martial arts ways was disrupted by political tensions in Russia, which forced him to flee overseas to the US.

In the US, he tried to join the UFC after watching a UFC bout. Despite numerous challenges to his UFC debut, he overcame them all to make his debut in the UFC.

Oleg Taktarov was one of the early Russian fighters in the UFC, and he did so well that by 2003, he was voted among the top 10 most popular fighters in the UFC by fans.

After he retired from the UFC, he competed in grappling bouts before his brief return stint in the UFC in 2007.

8. Aleksander Emelianenko

Aleksander Emelianenko
Aleksander Emelianenko / Instagram
  • Nickname: Red Devil, The Grim Reaper
  • Division: Heavyweight, Super Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 28-9

Aleksander Emelianenko cuts an intimidating figure that does justice to his fighting skills with his beards, tattoos, and scary look.

Aleksander Emelianenko, the younger brother of Fedor Emelianenko, boasts of an MMA legacy hugely respected in Russia.

His interest in MMA began on the cold streets of Russia, where he was notorious for getting involved in street fights and neighborhood riots.

Despite being poor, the fights inspired him to begin training in boxing, which his mother forbade, but the Russian star continued secretly.

He went on to train not only in boxing but Judo and Sambo. Aleksander Emelianenko was so good that he excelled at Sambo World tournaments.

In 2003, 22 years old, Emelianenko entered the MMA in the Pride FC promotion.

He fought in other promotions such as Strega Walk and Affliction Entertainment.

7. Sergei Kharitonov

Sergei Kharitonov
Sergei Kharitonov / Instagram
  • Nickname: Paratrooper
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 34-9-2

While growing up, one thing Sergei Kharitonov perhaps was sure about was that he would end up having a sports career.

This was because his parents were athletes, and he was physically active in his early years.

By 11, a humiliating street brawl defeat by a drunken passer-by inspired Sergei Kharitonov to begin training in boxing.

As he advanced in age, he has co tiny red to add other combat sports to his arsenal.

He soon debuted for Pride FC, and since then, Sergei Kharitonov has fought across multiple MMA promotions around the globe.

Aside from MMA, Sergei Kharitonov has an excellent kickboxing and boxing career.

6. Andrei Arlovski

Andrei Arlovski
Andrei Arlovski / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Pitbull
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 34-20-2

One of the most talented and toughest UFC fighters, Andrei Arlovski, was born in the Soviet Union in a region now known as Belarus.

He ventured into MMA due to the spontaneous interest of his childhood love for the sport but out of spite and anger.

After several defeats and beatings from bullies, Andrei Arlovski decided to devote himself to physical development.

Thus, he began building his muscles by weightlifting and training in martial arts.

At 16, he was training in kickboxing, sambo, and Jido, and by 20, he was well-trained to the point that he went on to debut professionally.

He first fought in the M1-Global before UFC talent scouts picked up his talents.

In December 2000, at UFC 28, he debuted in the promotion and went on to claim the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.

After his stint in the UFC, he fought in other promotions such as Strikeforce, Affliction Entertainment, ProElite, ONE Fighting Championship, and WSOF.

In December 2012, he returned to the MMA, and since then, he has been part of the promotion roster.

5. Alexander Shlemenko

Alexander Shlemenko
Alexander Shlemenko / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Siberian Striker
  • Division: Middleweight, Light Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 61-18-1

Since his teenage years, Alexander Shlemenko has been interested in combat sports, majorly wrestling.

That soon extended to an interest in the MMA, and at the age of 20 in 2004, he made his MMA professional debut in the IAFC promotion.

However, he achieved prominence after leaving the IAFC for the EliteXC promotion.

He fought in numerous high-profile bouts in the EliteXC. In 2010 he moved to Bellator MMA.

In his first few bouts after debuting in the Bellator, he won the Bellator Season Two Middleweight Tournament.

He also went on to win the Bellator Middleweight Championship before leaving the promotion.

He had brief stints with other promotions before returning to Bellator, where he fought until October 2018.

Since Leaving Bellator for the second time, he has been a free agent.

4. Vladimir Matyushenko

  • Nickname: The Janitor
  • Division: Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 27-8

Since his early years, one thing Vladimir Matyushenko has always been interested in was combat sports. As such, he went on to pursue a career in wrestling, and though he fought at the amateur level, he did amazingly well. While he was actively involved in wrestling in college, the allure of the MMA began enticing him.

He started his career in the IFC and soon was invited into the UFC after a 9-1 record in smaller promotions. He fought briefly in the UFC before leaving the promotion and went on to have brief stints in the International Fight League and Affliction before his eventual return to the UFC.

Matyushenko returned to the UFC in 2009 and fought in the promotion until 2013. Following his second departure from UFC, he went on to the Bellator MMA, where he fought until his eventual retirement from the MMA in 2014.

3. Igor Vovchanchyn

  • Nickname: Ice Cold
  • Division: Light Heavyweight, Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 56-10-1

In the history of MMA, only one fighter surpasses Igor Vovchanchyn in defeating opponents via knockouts.

Known for his brutal knockouts, Igor Vovchanchyn is to this day one of the most feared MMA fighters, despite long retiring from the sport.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, he was notorious for street fights and had a terrible temper.

A famous story in his hometown reveals that while growing up, a bell was often rung when Igor Vovchanchyn got angry, as a means for everyone to remain indoors until he got calm.

He soon got involved in boxing and learned other combat sports, such as kickboxing.

In 1995 he debuted in the MMA and fought in multiple promotions, such as the International Absolute Fighting Council.

He soon was invited to the UFC but couldn’t participate mainly because he was dissatisfied with the offer.

He went on to fight in Pride FC, and though he never won any title in the promotion, he dominated promotion.

Despite being a terrific fighter, Igor Vovchanchyn had to retire from the MMA at 32 due to injuries. 

2. Fedor Emelianenko

Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor Emelianenko / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Last Emperor
  • Division: Heavyweight
  • Fighting Record: 40-6-1

In the history of the best MMA fighters, Fedor Emelianenko would always have a place. In fact, for some, his inclusion in the number 2 spot on our list is quite unforgivable, but the stats don’t lie.

The elder brother of MMA legend Aleksander Emelianenko, Zhe began learning the ways of MMA at the age of 11, starting with judo.

He got so good at Judo and Sambo that he pursued a professional career in the sport and excelled.

However, due to a lack of money, he left the Russian National Judo Team and entered the MMA.

He started at low-level promotions before going on to RINGS, where he won the Heavyweight Class Championship.

After his stint at RINGS, he went on to PRIDE Fighting championships, where he dominated astoundingly.

He won the Pride sighting Championships, which he defended three successive times, and claimed the PRIDE 2004 Heavyweight World Grand Prix Champ.

After his time at Pride FC, he went on to fight in other promotions such as M1-Global, Affliction, and Strikeforce.

In 2012, he retired professionally from the MMA, and despite UFC’s attempts to make him fight in the promotion, he refused even when he came out of retirement in 2015.

In 2016, he moved to the Bellator MMA, where he currently fights.

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov / Instagram
  • Nickname: The Eagle
  • Division; Lightweight, Welterweight

In the history of MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s name would be written in gold ink for his noteworthy achievements.

The Russian is regarded as one of the greatest and richest fighters in MMA and UFC history.

He remains undefeated despite fighting in the most competitive and toughest MMA promotion in the world, the UFC.

As early as 9, Khabib Nurmagomedov had begun learning martial arts most unconventionally.

As young as 9, Nurmagomedov’s training included wrestling with a bear.

His father, a decorated athlete, trained him well such that at 20 years old, Nurmagomedov had already been competing professionally.

In just a few months of debuting professionally, he had emerged the Atrium Cup tournament champion.

After gaining a 16-0 record, he was invited to the UFC.

After years of entering the UFC, he emerged as UFC Lightweight Champion.

He defended his title against tough opponents in high-profile bouts such as UFC 229 against McGregor.

After years of dominating the UFC, and holding onto his UFC Lightweight Championship, Khabib Nurmagomedov retired in March 2021.

He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame the next year.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is now an MMA Coach, Cornerman, and promoter.


The MMA is intensely competitive and tough, with diverse fighters across different weight classes, each itching to make a name for themselves.

However, the Russians have established themselves by dominating the various promotions they have fought in, winning championships, and creating records.

This fact that Russians have always been great MMA fighters has long been proven true right from the early years of modern MMA in the late 20th century.

The likes of fighters such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Oleg Taktarov, who stand out as the best Russian MMA Fighters of all time. are classic proof of how successful Russians have proven to be in the history of the MMA.

These fighters, all included in our list, come from various promotions and periods in modern MMA history, but all are valid proof of just how noteworthy and influential

Russians have been in MMA history.

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. International MMA: Top 10 Countries With Fighting Talent. Bleacher Report

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