By lead writer: Jorden Curran

Kazakh athlete Shavkat Rakhmonov (pictured above) extended his professional MMA record to 11-0 on April 30, winning the vacant M-1 welterweight championship as the latest international amateur standout to progress and earn an established pro title.

IMMAF president Kerrith Brown was in attendance at M-1 Challenge 101, alongside M-1 founder and WMMAA president Vadim Finkelstein. Taking place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the main event saw Rakhmonov secure a second round TKO stoppage over Russian opponent, Daniil Prikaza. Rakhmonov’s success as a professional MMA champion succeeds his amateur triumphs as a former WMMAA World and Asian Championships title winner.

The International MMA Federation (IMMAF) and World MMA Association (WMMAA) announced an amalgamation in 2018 to form the world’s unified MMA governing body. In addition to attending the M-1 Challenge event, the respective leaders of IMMAF and WMMAA joined meetings with the government department Martial Arts Association of Kazakhstan and national MMA regulator, the Association of Unified MMA Federations of Kazakhstan.

After the memorable appearance of Berik Shinaliyev at the 2016 IMMAF European Open, Kazakhstan’s prominence on the international amateur platform increased further in 2017 with medals secured at the European Open and a vast haul including 3 golds earned at the inaugural IMMAF Asian Open, respective of the nation’s ongoing prominence under the formerly separate WMMAA banner.

With three silver medals and one bronze, Kazakhstan achieved 7th place in the 2017 IMMAF World Championships medal table, but at the historic IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships in 2018, sensational strawweight athlete Bagdat Zhubanysh (pictured below) in his 2018 World Championship final bout) achieved a gold medal for the nation with a trio of highly impressive performances to win the men’s 115lb bracket.

Kazakhstan continues to be one of the world’s most consistent producers of amateur MMA talent. On the professional stage, Kazakh athletes have triumphed in organisations such as ONE Championships, M-1, Titan FC and Brave. In 2018, lightweight competitor Damir Ismagulov was the first Kazakh-born athlete to compete in the UFC.

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