ASTANA – It is an honor to represent Kazakhstan and to promote not only the sports but the culture of the country, said Kazakh professional mixed martial artist in the UFC Shavkat Rakhmonov in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times shortly after he met with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Astana on March 27.
Tokayev invited Rakhmonov to the Akorda, the presidential palace, to congratulate him on his recent UFC win in Las Vegas. He said the will to win and the success of strong athletes like Shavkat Rakhmonov inspire the younger generation to lead a healthy lifestyle.
“I was delighted to receive the invitation from the President. He wished me luck and said he is ready to provide any support,” Rakhmonov said.
President Tokayev wished the Kazakh fighter to reach new heights in his sporting career. Rakhmonov thanked him for a warm welcome and assured him he would make every effort to meet the expectations of his fans.
Winning the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) and Asian Championships titles as an amateur, Rakhmonov remained undefeated for the fifth time in the UFC, with 17 wins in his career in total.
He said his main achievement is becoming No. 6 in the UFC welterweight rankings.
“This triumph hasn’t been achieved by any other Kazakh fighters so far, which makes it my biggest accomplishment. The best is yet to come,” he said.
Rakhmonov said the sport is contributing to raising Kazakhstan’s profile. As more people become aware of the country, they are surprised by the outstanding high level the nation continues to demonstrate in martial arts.
“I am happy to show my nationality. As you know, I always wear Kazakh headgear, because I am proud to represent my country,” he said.
Rakhmonov is looking forward to seeing more Kazakh athletes involved in mixed martial arts.
He stressed that young men require state support, financial assistance in particular, to follow in the footsteps of renowned Kazakh fighters. At the same time, the key is to be willing to work hard.
“It is a serious sport. You have to be ready to be hurt or injured. You must be honest with yourself and follow strict discipline,” he said.