SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia (January 16, 2018) — M-1 Challenge lightweight champion Damir Ismagulov has been selected by mixed-martial-arts fans around the world as the 2017 M-1 Global Fighter of the Year.
Fighting out of Orenburg, Russia, the 26-year-old Ismagulov (14-2-0, M-1: 8-1-0) was 3-0-0 in 2017, all in M-1 Global action, including his M-1 Challenge lightweight title-winning performance, followed by one successful title defense.
Ismagulov, a native of Kazakhstan, started 2017 in grand style, knocking out Morgan Heraod of France, in the third round last February at M-1 Challenge 74.
Last May, Ismagulov faced former M-1 Challenge champion Maxim Divnich (13-2-0), at home, in Orenburg, for the vacant M-1 Challenge lightweight championship.
Their title fight commenced with a “feeling-out process” of simple exchanges of blows with Ismagulov working more with his feet, but the opening round ended with the hometown favorite holding a slight advantage.
Ismagulov, however, dominated the next three rounds and Divnich, whose severely damaged, bloody face showed the ill effects of Ismagulov’s continued assault, was unable to turn things around in the fifth. As the finish neared, Ismagulov failed to submit his game opponent until a barrage of unanswered punched rained on a defenseless Divnich. The referee halted the action with 13-seconds remaining on the clock for a hard-fought Ismagulov win by technical knockout.
After the fight 5,000 fans celebrated, roaring their approval for Ismagulov, who said, “I’m from the Orenburg region. I won the belt! Thanks for coming. I want to thank the MMA Orenburg, my coach, Victor Frolov, who saw me as a talent, and Alexander Shlemenko for believing in me. I thank my coaches, my family, and our fans.
“I’ve proved that a simple guy from a small village without the Internet can become champion. If I can, you can. The belt is in Orenburg, where it should be.”
Ismagulov won a hard-fought main event battle against upset-minded Rogero “Karranca” Matias da Conceicao, of Brazil, by way of a non-title, unanimous decision at M-1 Challenge 85.
Ismagulov defends his M-1 Challenge lightweight title February 22, when he takes on his Georgian challenger, Raul Tuturauli (18-3-0, M-1: 6-1-0), in the M-1 Challenge 88 main event at Olympic Stadium in Moscow