ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov (15-0) is an unstoppable force.
The Dagestan, Russia native is a master in wushu-sanda, pankration, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and is the only competitor in the world to have won six consecutive bouts via rear-naked choke. Simply put, the 32-year-old is a prime example of an exceptional athlete, whose mix of stamina, talent, and power guarantee thrilling performances inside the cage.
Needless to say, in order to get to become an undefeated world titleholder, he needs to consistently train and keep his high-octane motor running.
Gafurov splits his training into two parts. He maintains a lighter program during the out-of-competition period, and follows that up with an intense schedule, which kicks in approximately two months before a new bout.
When “Cobra” is not preparing for a match, he usually does 30 minutes on a stationary bike first thing in the morning. “It is awesome to have this machine at home,” he confesses. “You can easily get some training done without leaving the house. In Dagestan, where I live, the weather in autumn and winter can be very harsh. The indoor bike is a hassle-free way of training.”
Following his stationary bike workout, Gafurov spends ten minutes performing different variations of planks. “Do planks using just one hand, or try and raise one leg at a time. Then, change to side or rocking planks – this is the best exercise I know for the core,” he states. “Remember, a strong core is the base of your good performance and good body shape.”
That, however, is only part of his daily fitness routine in the off-season. He still sharpens his martial arts skills, and hits the gym a few times a week.
“I do martial arts training every other day,” he continues. “I go to different grappling gyms in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan where I live, and train for an hour or two. Every couple of days, I do CrossFit for strength and power training. I try not to over-train. It is important to remain quick and strong at the same time.”
The moment he signed to defend his title against Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, he completely changed his schedule.
After waking up at 7 a.m., Gafurov does his usual combination of indoor cycling and plank variations, this time with a series of burpees. After a small breakfast, he goes for a warm-up run. “I usually do three to four kilometers, just to get my blood running faster. Then I do box jumps, pull-ups, and exercises on parallel bars.”
“Cobra” follows that up with a quick rest, and then heads to his grappling and sparring sessions, where he does five rounds of drills and three rounds of sparring.
In the evening, the champion keeps pushing himself with a two-hour BJJ class or a wrestling session. All of that is done in Makhachkala, where there is no shortage of top-notch athletes.
“Makhachkala is a centre of world-class wrestling,” he claims. “There is so much talent here! I do not need to hire any special sparring partners. Rocking up at the gym is enough. I am sure all promotions will be full of guys from Dagestan very soon.”
On Saturdays, he does CrossFit and padwork, followed by six to seven kilometers of uphill running in the mountains. Sunday, of course, is his day of rest. Two weeks before the match, however, he changes his entire routine again. ”My training regime gets lighter. I focus on cardio and light sparring.”
When ONE Championship introduced new rules concerning weigh-ins, Gafurov’s competition weight moved from 66 kilograms up to 70 kilograms, which made him very happy. “I do not need to abuse my body with severe weight cuts any more. There is no more need to drastically cut the weight,” he says.
Gafurov also compliments his fitness and training with a proper diet. The secret to his success is quite simple: eat natural food, preferably organic. He considers himself lucky to live in Dagestan, a region in Russia that has a strong farming culture. “It is easy to get hold of natural fresh produce here. My rule is if I cannot understand what the food is made of, I do not eat it.”
The champion, however, does not need to employ a nutritionist. having made it a part of his world champion craft. “I have perfected my diet over the years, and I am able to calculate my ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs myself now.”
On Friday, 18 August, all of that dieting and training will be done. The champion will enter the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to defend his belt against Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, where he will look to get his 16th win, keep his undefeated record intact, and carry the ONE Featherweight World Championship belt in its familiar place on his shoulder.