Marat Kapkayev: ‘If you chose the road of an MMA athlete, you have to leave issues of faith outside the Octagon’

The manager of Rinat the Gladiator Fakhretdinov about the UFC’s proposal, mental training of the wrestler and compromises on religious issues

Marat Kapkayev: ‘If you chose the road of an MMA athlete, you have to leave issues of faith outside the Octagon’
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Champion and winner of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and now head of the Tatarstan Sports Union and manager of the first Tatar wrestler in the UFC the Gladiator Marat Kapkayev talked with Realnoe Vremya and explained how his pupil received an offer from the UFC, his attitude to Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s behaviour outside the Octagon and if Fakhretdinov would do the same, his opinion about the rule not to punch people who share the same religion on the face. Read about this and other topics in our interview.

We considered the UAE Warriors to be a springboard to the UFC but didn’t expect Dana White’s spontaneous offer”

You previously mentioned that Rinat could have had a bout in Las Vegas, but the pandemic and quarantine measures made their amendments. Has there been any progress since then?

The ball is in the UFC’s court now. We have met all conditions: we have signed a contract, met all conditions of the American Anti-Doping Agency. As far as I am concerned, a lot of tournaments, including American, have been postponed due to the pandemic-related ‘traffic jams’. So the schedule of tournaments has changed a bit, and the UFC didn’t consider Rinat — we have signed a contract unexpectedly, both for us and for the UFC.

We are waiting for an offer. I think Rinat will consider March proposals with pleasure but we haven’t yet received anything from Dana.

Then, I think we will consider May. We know Rinat’s plans — he is going to fast in April. This is why even if we offer him an April event, he will ask to put it off, we will refuse. He is a religious man anyway, and it will be hard to prepare during this period.

Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov
We know Rinat’s plans — he is going to fast in April. This is why even if we offer him an April event, he will ask to put it off, we will refuse. He is a religious man anyway, and it will be hard to prepare during this period

You have said that the contract with Fakhretdinov became a surprise for both sides. Did Dana White really spontaneously offer a contract immediately after the bout in Abu Dhabi?

You know, when we agreed with the UAE Warriors on the bout, we planned to make it a kind of springboard to the UFC. Moreover, the Fight Island is located very close to the venue of the UAE Warriors — we understood it could play into our hands.

But we didn’t expect Dana White to see the bout. We planned to ask the UAE Warriors later to tell the UFC about Rinat. But we didn’t expect it would happen so spontaneously during the tournament itself and immediately after the bout. Neither did we know Dana would scout for new lads for his show in the tournament. Our task was to be remembered by the audience, show a beautiful good bout.

Are you holding a preliminary talk about the future rival? Is he a novice too?

We know that novices usually fight against wrestlers who also recently joined the UFC. But the more serious the rival is, the more interesting the debut will be for us from a perspective of the media coverage. Rinat has his own preferences, considering that he decided to start his career in the category of 77 kg.

We planned to ask the UAE Warriors later to tell the UFC about Rinat. But we didn’t expect it would happen so spontaneously during the tournament itself and immediately after the bout

The bout against Eric Spicely in Abu Dhabi took place after quite a long break, 1,5 years. How did you manage to agree with him given such a break?

Well, everybody had a break as a result of the pandemic. Eric Spicely also had a break, and we were aware of this. We also kept training, preparing. One has always to be on the alert. I will say even more: I told UFC matchmakers we were ready to substitute somebody just in case. I mean we were ready to go. Rinat didn’t stop training for the whole year. He trained and gave classes to children and big groups.

We do plan use the Tatarstan colour. Rinat has always worn national symbols by Tatarstan producers. He has always stressed this in his uniform

“I think nothing is wrong with Nurmagomedov’s jump out the Octagon. He is the best in the world”

Has there been developed a marketing campaign, how to make this product named First Tatar Wrestler in the UFC attractive? Will the national colour be taken into consideration?

Nothing concrete yet. We are looking for a global, exclusive partner. Of course, we would be pleased if it were some republican big partner and we could use Tatarstan companies in the sports entertainment market. We have tested the waters and are waiting for feedback, so to speak. While we do plan use the Tatarstan colour. Rinat has always worn national symbols by Tatarstan producers. He has always stressed this in his uniform.

Many love Connor McGregor though he hasn’t won anything for long. He is a great showman, charismatic, knows how to morally press the rival. It is big mental work with the fighter. Do you work with wrestlers in this area?

Compared to Western wrestlers, you have mentioned Connor McGregor, we probably fall behind in this respect, in the good sense of this word. Rinat himself is quite a soft person, friendly, he hasn’t yet had precedents of irreconcilable sports animosity — either in life or sports career. Rinat is mentally quite resilient — he withstands any trash talking and ‘threats’ of the rival. We consider that good technique and sports training are the best preparation, the best moral attack.

One can shower the rival with threats and then be unable to cope with him. We know that what will happen inside the octagon will bring a victory, not outside it.

Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov
One can shower the rival with threats and then be unable to cope with him. We know that what will happen inside the octagon will bring a victory, not outside it

What do you think about Nurmagomedov’s behaviour, his jumps out the Octagon, quarrels on social media? Should you borrow anything here?

I am not a big fan of social media, this is why I didn’t stay tuned for quarrels. As for the jumps, I perfectly understand the athlete because the personality of Khabib is paid huge attention by the world’s sports audience, it is under pressure, he has a big responsibility a person feels before a bout... It goes without saying that it is a burst of emotions. It is like a compressed spring that presses. I think there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t know if Rinat will do it... But the lad expresses his emotions, he is the best in the world.

“We expect Rinat’s example to be an impulse for our compatriots, and not only from Tatarstan”

I have a delicate question. As it is known, in Islam, it is prohibited to punch on the face of people who share the same religion. How do you manage to address such an ethical moment?

The issue is ambiguous enough for me. We have talked a lot on this topic with Rinat, and I have my own ideas of this. If you chose the road of a professional MMA athlete, you have to give in and accept some things. I mean people who have the same religion are often seen in Russian shows now. I think it is the highest degree of professionalism when they leave everything outside the Octagon. There is no animosity. There is a desire to defeat the rival from a professional perspective, not humiliating his either national or religious values.

Rinat has already refused to fight with some brothers. This referred to those fighters he personally knows, he trained with and he has friendly relations with, and not only people of the same religion.

I mean people who have the same religion are often seen in Russian shows now. I think it is the highest degree of professionalism when they leave everything outside the Octagon

You said that there is a kind war against the Dagestani hegemony in bouts. Can one person do something? Because their number of representatives is big.

To be honest, I have never used the word ‘war’, and it became a surprise for me when some of the journalists used the word ‘war’. It isn’t a war, it is healthy competition. I wouldn’t use this word, it contains a negative meaning. I don’t have this word in my vocabulary, neither do the vocabulary of our team and the Tatarstan Sports Union have it.

Of course, I would like to have as many compatriots as possible. As for the healthy competition, I would like it to be some irritating factor because Caucasian republics, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, they all can have five MMA teams. While Tatarstan is behind in this respect. Rinat calls himself a man from the Red List — he knows how small our representation in these sports is. I would just want to stir many of my compatriots. And Rinat’s example will maybe be motivation to do sport.

Rinat has already refused to fight with some brothers. This referred to those fighters he personally knows, he trained with and he has friendly relations with, and not only people of the same religion

Who of young athletes who can drive out the Caucasian representation out is ready to fight?

We will try to compete with any fighter, no matter where he comes from. Lenar Suleymanov — quite a good lad, with a good record performing in the lightweight category — was at the recent press conference among the lads we plan to field. In the light heavyweight division, we consider a fighter from Samara — Ramis Tergulov. He has been working with our union for quite a long time. He performs successfully. Now he has made a decision to switch from the superheavyweight to the light heavyweight division.

There are lads from the 70-kg category, Rinat's success motivated them. And we think that feedback now will be bigger, maybe not only from Tatarstan but also from other regions.

Photo: tatarstan.ru
It seems that Kazan hasn’t yet looked such young sport jiu jitsu over. We try to break all stereotypes and show that jiu jitsu is a very accessible and a good sport for adaptation

“The infrastructure in Kazan is top-class. Popularisation of martial arts is another thing”

Kazan hosted big European judo and sambo championships in 2016. Now a Jiu-Jitsu World Cup stage is expected in August. Undoubtedly, it is a big success to get it. Can we compare these competitions?

Kazan is Russia’s sports capital, without doubt. The city hosts such big competitions as the FIFA WC, Universiade and others. But it seems that Kazan hasn’t yet looked such young sport jiu-jitsu over. We try to break all stereotypes and show that jiu-jitsu is a very accessible and good sport for adaptation. For those who would like to deal with martial arts but for some reason boxing or MMA are likely to cause an injury or too complex in terms of technique and sport. I think the World Cup stage we plan to host will break this stereotype and show that everything is accessible.

We plan to create a big sports festival and engage the Tatarstan, Volga and Russian public to this event.

Kazan seems to lack a big venue to host big tournaments. Does Kazan need such a facility to have a position at wrestling centres of the country?

I won’t agree. We plan to host the World Cup stage in Ak Bars Wrestling Palace. It is quite a big venue. We showed it to the International Jiu-Jitsu Federation, and they feel fine with it.

We plan to create a big sports festival and engage the Tatarstan, Volga and Russian public to this event

There are Tatneft Arena and Basket Hall with a big capacity. Kazan has enough venues. At last, there is Kazan Arena (Editor’s Note: now Ak Bars Arena), and we have grandiose plans and we will maybe grow to such a level to host something in the venue in the open air.

Kazan is very equipped from the point of view of infrastructure. Another thing is that martial arts aren’t as developed as hockey, football regarding popularity. Our task is to draw people’s attention to us.

Interviewed by Erik Dobrolyubov
BashkortostanTatarstan