Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev has put the ONE Championship lightweight division on notice.
Ever since his professional debut two years ago, the unbeaten Corvos MMA product has steamrolled through his rivals with relative ease, and has collectively finished all four of them in less than two minutes.
The 22-year-old plans to continue the trend. On Saturday Night, 14 January, he will square off against Bulgaria’s Georgi “Stanchev” Stoyanov at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER, which takes place at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
Although Stoyanov is filling in for an injured Rasul Yakhyaev on ten days’ notice, it does not matter to Arslanaliev whom his opponent is. He is confident all challengers will experience the same fate as his past foes.
“I guarantee you that anyone who steps in the cage [with me] will have a serious headache the next day,” says Arslanaliev.
It is not difficult for anyone to understand why the Dagestan, Russia-bred youth is as confident as he is in his skill set, and how determined he is to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion one day.
After all, he has been preparing for this particular career his entire life. Arslanaliev’s martial arts journey began in a difficult place, as his mother and father divorced soon after he was born. Although the process is tough on any young child, fortunately for the young prodigy, it also saw the start of something positive for him – martial arts training.
“I lived with my parents until I was five. Then they split up, and they enrolled me into a school where all we did all day was train,” he remembers.
Enjoyment of sport came naturally to the Dagestani child, so he took to the training. As he practiced more, he improved and earned the respect of those around him.
“I always liked sports,” he continues. “I enjoy training and fighting. When my mother saw that I was talented, she started to support my career as a fighter. The more I improved, the more people like my friends, coaches, and relatives took me seriously.”
Another motivating factor was the environment he was raised in.
“I am from Buynaksk in Dagestan,” he begins. “The city is famous for its fighters. I believe I am lucky because as I grew up, I was surrounded by very tough guys. The city has a high unemployment rate. Everyone is trying hard to make it through sports.”
Dagi was certainly successful at the martial arts in his childhood. When he was 12, he became the Dagestan Champion in wushu-sanda. He would hold the title two additional times, and would also become a Russian, Armenian, and Azerbaijan National Champion in the discipline.
Nearly a decade into his athletic training, around the age of 14, Arslanaliev started watching the MMA precursor style of Pankration fighting. The discipline enthralled him.
Two years later, when his family relocated to Turkey, he witnessed and experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu first-hand at the Istanbul-based Corvos MMA gym. Immediately, the young man knew he needed work on his submission game in order to, in his own words, “be able to make to it.”
The mixing of martial arts styles immediately fascinated Dagi. He became enamored with efficacy of proper technique.
“I was very amazed that I could use all the arts together. That sounded like fun,” he says, reflecting on his first experiences with the sport. “Also, I remember coming to Corvos and training with their BJJ team. I never before knew BJJ could be so effective on the ground, so I decided to study BJJ deeper.”
He proved to be a quick study, earning a brown belt and winning many competitions to date, including becoming an Azerbaijan No Gi Grappling Champion.
Turkey may have introduced Arslanaliev to the world of jiu-jitsu, but the cold reality is the nation has yet to embrace MMA.
“Living in a country where the sport is not well known was difficult,” he acknowledges. “I came to reach this point in my career just by my and my team’s efforts. I did not have any sponsors. In fact, I still do not have any local Turkish sponsors.
“This is very sad because I believe I am representing my current home in an international arena very well. Even though it has been difficult, I am always optimistic. Hopefully things will change in the near future.”
Arslanaliev certainly deserves for them to. His record and performances to date have been stellar, making him one of the hottest prospects in Asian MMA today.
Truth be told, there has always been a high expectation from Arslanaliev and those around him. From the outset of the 22-year-old’s career, his coach Burak Değer Biçer set lofty goals for him, and with each fight, he is getting closer and closer to accomplishing the primary objective.
“When I entered ONE, I did not enter to just win a few fights,” he says. “Even when we were getting ready for my debut fight, we were really getting ready for the man who holds the title belt. My coach Burak always sets high goals. I will take that shiny ONE Championship belt home.”