Ad for Strelka in Italy.  Instagram photo.

Mixed martial arts (MMA), as it is known today, has various variants and origins. Maybe it’s him pancratius from Ancient Greece the most distant antecedent of a regulated competition that combined different fighting disciplines. The clear thing is that it was always attractive to see two warriors face each other, an instinct of “spectator” that is still maintained although to many it may seem like a violent or extremely rough sport.

It also happens that this young sport (or old, as it was said) gave rise to other viral disciplines. In Russia, for a few years there has been a “modern fight club that includes improvised rings and a guiding idea, which could fit with a famous phrase from the animated film Ratatouille: “anyone can fight“.

We are talking about Strelka, outdoor street fighting (originally on sand, but which spread to snow, grass, etc.), in which anyone who dares can sign up to fight. The money only sees the winner.

Various Russian portals and media, such as RussianLover either Russia Beyondgive name and surname to the creator of the brand: Greg Appinyan. They say that this character worked with the legend of Russian sambo and MMA, Fedor Emelianenko.

Then he opened a sportswear store and had an idea: promote clothing in a match. It was there that he set up an improvised ring and his unexpected success forced him to rethink the business, local media explained.

The man now runs an event company in almost 50 cities in Russia, registered the brand “Strelka” and associated with various companies, including, TronMMA (USA.). On the latter’s website he claims that “STRELKA street fights are fights under the naked sky that take place all over the world.”

“Our project was founded in 2011 in St. Petersburg. Strelka is the biggest fight club in the world, with more than 10,000 participants throughout Russia. We are the second on YouTube after the UFC based on visits,” he says. The most viewed video of the page on that social network has more than 47 million clicks.

Ad for Strelka in Italy. Instagram photo.

At the end of April, a “new ‘Kimbo Fights’-style combat format was announced on Tron’s Instagram in Italy (with a photo of the Roman Colosseum and everything),” this last detail mentions Kimbo Slice, who was a pioneer of street fighting in Miami, died in 2016, and sponsored Jorge Masvidal on the streets, today a UFC star. It is the sign that everything can be concatenated in the world of hand-to-hand fights.

“The funny thing about Strelka is the titles. They introduce them to fighters like ‘the baker against the super-ninja’, etc. Actually, you realize when you see a fight that they are all kids who do something (contact sports). Even the clothing they have: MMA t-shirt, sambo pants… It’s not that any improvised is going, “he clarified to Jorge “RusticMaidana MurArgentine fighter of sambo -the national sport of Russia-.

The “Rústico”, as a colleague called him because it was difficult for him to hook the striking combinations that he taught him, studied with Juan Pablo Melo, instructor and president of the Argentine Sambo Federation in the country. He represented the country in three Pan American and four World Cups of the discipline, and whose last competition was in 2019.

Jorge "Rustic" Maidana Mur (center) and Juan Pablo Melo (d), the president of the Argentine Sambo Federation.

Jorge “Rústico” Maidana Mur (center) and Juan Pablo Melo (d), the president of the Argentine Sambo Federation.

He traveled to Russia in one of those championships, and assured that there are several competitions like the Strelka, but that this one stood out more than others. “There are several of these expressions in the world. If one starts to dive through the video platforms, in Poland, for example, there is one who fights on the grassin Lithuania another and so on,” he explained.

According to what he said, these competitions have been seen since the end of the 90’s, but a few years ago it became more popular. “The same networks fired up for that and he became famous later. In addition, there are cool knockouts and they throw ‘magic'”, he explained about the blows or unorthodox techniques. “There are in professional fights, see if there are not going to be attractive knockouts at that level,” she said.

As for the number of Russian fighters that he referred to, he considers that it is due to a “Soviet conception” that is still in force. “They are good at what they do because whatever they do, they do it fully. The Soviet school is a lot of physical education, gymnastics and derivatives, and combat sports. But the gymnastics base is from elementary school. Any Soviet republic or Eastern Europe has a good physical base,” said the expert.

Strelka, the "Fight Club" Russian.  Photo capture video.

Strelka, the Russian “fight club”. Photo capture video.

The crack in Argentine sambo

Although she retired from competitions, Maidana Mur continues to train at the Sambo Federation (the new headquarters is in Kame House Training & Fighting Center, at Avenida Juan de Garay 3,046). According to what he said, he started doing sambo at 28 years old, and exploded in competition between 33 and 37: “I started late“, be sincere.

In addition, he explained that the trips of the Argentine delegation are often directly financed by Russia. “Being affiliated with the Sambo Federation there, he sends you tickets. It depends a lot on how it went in the Pan American. If you got a champion, maybe they send you more. They do force you to have travel insurance,” he assured about the experience.

Rústico Maiana (d) when he became the Combat Sambo team champion at the Pan American.

Rústico Maiana (d) when he became the Combat Sambo team champion at the Pan American.

“In all the sambo world championships, the Russian team goes full, wherever. Now I don’t know what it will be like after the war, but a strong team was from Ukraine. Poland does not have sambo, for example. The visceral hatred of the Russians makes them not even send representatives,” he explained.

In the midst of this context it is impossible not to ask him about his colleagues, who have Russians and Ukrainians, who live in the country.

Now there is a crack there. They got along relatively normally, they weren’t close friends nor did they hate each other, and now there was a crack in the relationship,” he said. “They come to train for a logical thing that they remember their land, they get together and talk about their stuff. When we travel, relatives send things… They know us. There is a tension now because they are very nationalistic“, he continued.

Lastly, the Rustic said he has several sambo training groups and that “we don’t talk about war“. “It’s complicated. They are things that we are not going to understand, because they are historical, even ethnic. And here, luckily, we don’t have those age-old problems. We try to avoid the subject,” he concluded.

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