Veni, Vidi, Vici!
We present you an article related Chechen fighter Mamed Khalidov who says: “My country is under Russian occupation, so i am fighting for Poland, where i live”.
In Mamed Khalidov’s memories, Chechnya from before the Russian war is peaceful, almost boring. He only has fond memories of karate classes from that period. This adventure was short-lived, lasted just a few months, but it became embedded in Mamed’s memory. It was 1992, and Mamed had just turned 12.
There was an old Russian gymnasium in the mountains outside the city. The floor of the gymnasium was covered by a large mat. Daudov Rizwan – the coach – is still a very important person in Mamed’s life – not only did he notice a great talent in the young warrior – after two weeks of training he wanted to send Mamed to a competition – but he taught him to pray and read the Quran. He treated his students in a fatherly way. Although he trained a group of twenty boys, he devoted his time to each and every one of them. There were times when he went to his student’s school to check his progress and find out whether he was not playing truant. Sensei never forgot about his student’s birthdays and sometimes he even asked them over to his place. With his iron rules and endless kindness and care he deserved respect. “We’d rather have the earth swallow us up than not to come to a training. Daudov gave 200%, it was embarrassing not to give 300% back”, Khalidov remembers.
Soon after, in 1994, first bombs fall on Grozny. The elders from Mamed’s family make a decision for women, children and the elderly to leave Chechnya. They reside in Kanova in Stavropolsky krai in Russia. For the two years of his stay in the Russian village, Mamed goes through a baptism of fire and learns to fight. Practice out of necessity. The Russians from that area, although Khalidov is not happy to talk about it, bullied the Chechens. He had to defend his honour every day. However, it did not make him hate Russians. He does not pigeonhole people. “If I don’t know someone, I can’t say whether he or she is a bad person.” He blames the media for disseminating hostile attitudes.
When in 1996 Alexander Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov sign a truce in Khasavyurt, Mamed is 16. A year later he has an opportunity to go abroad to study. This is his parents’ idea. Grozny has been destroyed, almost razed to the ground. Mamed passes his geography and foreign language examinations. Now the destination has to be selected. Italy, Egypt or Poland? The choice is prosaic – Poland is the closest to Chechnya. Today, when asked whether he would change his choice, he claims he would not do that for all the world.
For Mamed, this is the first time he undertakes such a long journey. He remembers the day of departure well. He felt empty inside, uncertain of what was about to happen. He was not sure about the studies, but the family had made a decision. No tearful goodbyes were necessary and with three friends he set off on a tiring train journey to Poland. When they finally arrive at their destination, they are only dreaming about sleep. They are tired, stressed out, they don’t know what to do next. They fall into beds. They sleep for twenty hours. When they wake up, they are in a completely strange reality.
The first two weeks are difficult. Khalidov cannot find his place. But you have to grin and bear it, and move forward. Mamed and his friends attend an intensive Polish language course. He lives in a student hostel in Kortowo near Olsztyn where he is studying marketing and administration at the Warmia and Mazury University. He uses the opportunity to start practicing wrestling, taekwondo and boxing. For recreation, to get fit, to gain some self-confidence. He is a little over 18 when he seriously takes up martial arts. Late? Doesn’t matter. Due to his natural talent, effects start coming quickly. His sports career picks up in 2004. The MMA Arrachion club is founded in Olsztyn, where Mamed starts to train mixed martial arts (MMA). In May he faces the first professional fight. He goes to Lithuania. He loses. He gains experience. Another fight in September. Lithuania again, and again a defeat. He clears the tracks. After the third defeat he gains humility. He is not worried by poor results. “If you don’t fall down, you will never learn how to get up,” he says. He will soon be undefeated. In June he is defending his Master’s thesis.
Mamed learns from his mistakes. When preparing for a fight, he does not train for a specific opponent. He follows his passion in the ring. He keeps repeating that everything is theoretical before the fight, and practice rules in the ring. Khalidov says shahadah – a Muslim creed – before each fight. After the fight he prays, thanking God. “Regardless of the result, you have to thank God. I owe Him everything,” he says.
He cannot see any obstacles to the practicing of Islam in Poland. Every Friday, with a group of 12 Muslims, they sit down to prayer and reading of Quran, becoming united in their faith. Every day he gets up at 2 am, washes, says a prayer, and then returns to bed and goes back to sleep. “If you can find the time to watch the telly, how could you not find time for namaz – a prayer?” he asks. This does not stop him from training twice a day seven days a week. This gruelling lifestyle is applied two months before a fight. When he can have a little bit more freedom, he trains six days a week. According to him, the training is key to the success. To this adds perseverance and the great attitude of coaches to whom Khalidov attributes his successes.
So far, the twenty-nine-year-old Mamed has won the title of the International Champion of Poland in the 85 and 90 kg categories. Both in MMA. He fought and won also for the American organisation EliteXC. The greatest achievement in Mamed Khalidov’s career so far was the title won on 15 May 2009.
Warsaw, Torwar. A crowd of people. Celebrities in front rows. The Gala of MAC – Martial Art Confrontations. The largest MMA organisation in Europe. A large group of people are wearing T-shirts with “Mamed Khalidov” printed on them. They are the loudest. The fight of the night. His opponent is the Brazilian Daniel Acacio – a great figure in the world of sports. The master of ceremonies presents the contestants. He says about Mamed: “Phenomenal, exceptional, metaphysical.” All this is true. When entering the ring, Mamed is accompanied by Shamhan Daldaev’s song entitled “Eto Kavkaz”. This is “a song about my nation, about courage,” says Mamed. He claims that when he listens to it, stress disappears. Khalidov is calm. The contestants stand opposite each other. Traditional deep, searching look into each other’s eyes. A gong sounds. Seventy seconds later doctors have to do their best to revive the barely conscious Brazilian. A knockout. The crowd went mad. Mamed won the belt of the MAC International Champion. When the stands went euphoric, Mamed was praying in the ring, thanking God.
Mamed Khalidov is a kind of a phenomenon. He has a magnetism drawing people to him. He talks freely and openly. He is only reluctant to talk about his family. It is known that he has a wife and a child. He goes to great lengths to maintain their privacy. He also keeps them anonymous.
In the ring he has acquired the pseudonym “Cannibal”, the origin of which seems to be obvious. He simply devours his opponents. He likes fighting. It is more than a hobby. He does not know how he would cope in life if not for the rivalry and MMA.
He represents Poland in the international arena although he does not have the citizenship yet. He would like to get it very much but he has no strength to fight the bureaucracy. Poland, as he says, is his second home. “When I’m in Poland, I miss Chechnya. When I’m in Chechnya, I miss Poland.” When he is asked to identify himself, he says philosophically after his friend Ahmed Dzhantamirov with whom he arrived in Poland in 1997: “Physically I’m a Chechen. Mentally – a Pole. This is where my psyche was shaped, I entered adulthood and reached maturity here. So I’m in between.”
Plans for the future? He will probably fight in the United States. But he is not going to leave Poland for good. He would like to fight at MAC galas at least once a year. And then? Who knows? After the end of his career he might become a coach. Maybe he will run an estate agency? He has graduated from the marketing faculty after all. It is difficult talking about the future. He does not know the fate God has in store for him. Whatever that fate is, he will accept it with humility and probably also with a smile.
Gazeta Uchodzcow/ 29.06.2009