Thursday, September 29, 2022

Only In Russia: The Bizarre World of Medieval MMA

Apparently in Russia, MMA fighters sometimes wear full chain-link armor and wield swords.

This bizarre spin on traditional MMA was the brainchild of M1-Global—a leading Russian MMA promotion that birthed the likes of UFC stars Shavkat Rakhmonov and Alexander Volkov. In 2015, M1 began staging full-contact jousting matches—or “knight fights”—to keep the crowd entertained in between its traditional MMA bouts.

The bizarre sideshow however soon proved far more than a gimmick, with fans clamoring for more medieval action.

“I liked the fans’ reaction when we did it for the first time in St. Petersburg at M-1 Challenge 50,” M1 President Vadim Finkelchtein told MMA Fighting in 2017. “They seemed to really like it. They were impressed and supported the knights. So, I thought it was worth continuing.”

M1 global medieval MMA

The Rules Of M1 Global’s Medieval MMA

With his finger on the pulse of what the fans really want, Finkelchtein soon launched M1-Medieval, which featured bouts fought upon the lines of traditional MMA rules.

“I think it is similar to MMA,” Finkelchtein said. “The rules are similar: you can punch, strike and wrestle. The fighters have swords and shields, wear special clothing, and all that looks really impressive and exciting.”

M1 Medieval fights took place in what M1 called a “rage”—a hexagonal ring and cage hybrid—and knights were prohibited from striking the back of their opponent’s neck, spine, feet and ankles. And perhaps to the disappointment of some, the swords they carried into the ring were blunt.

These are rules that separated M1’s knight fights from other medieval combat sports, which are fought in line with the dictates of tradition. M1-Medeval, for instance, permitted knights to wrestle on the mat and violently pummel each other’s heads with their shields—acts of ungallantry that would surely earn a tsk tsk from the chivalrous knights of old.

At its height, M1-Medieval had more than 50 fighters on its roster and hosted a number of regular events. And back in 2015, Finkelchtein believed he was onto a winner, saying interest in medieval MMA bouts was soon to explode across Europe given the continent’s rich history of knight warfare.

“I do believe it will become popular in Europe, because of a rich knight background,” Finkelchtein said.

But perhaps its because of ideas like this why M1-Global, which has been around since 1997, today seems all but defunct as an MMA promotion. Once home to MMA greats Khabib Nurmagomedov and Fedor Emelianenko, the Russian outfit seemingly hasn’t held an event in over two years.

What’s your take on this bizarre medieval spin on MMA?

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