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Ripe with ambition, ACB President Bekhan Khasiev confident his promotion will garner international recognition

The President of Chechen promotion Absolute Championship Berkut discusses his ambition to garner international recognition and compete with the UFC.

M-1 Global

North American combat sports fans have become used to focusing their attention on fighters from their own region, as well as a handful of other notable areas such as Brazil. However, as evidenced over the past couple of years, there is a untapped reservoir of remarkably gifted fighters in other regions of the world, such as Russia and the surrounding nations like Dagestan and the Chechen Republic.

A wide array of fighters from Chechnya and Dagestan have recently found their way into some of the top promotions in North America, including both the UFC and Bellator. Amongst those fighters are notable standouts Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rustam Khabilov, Azamat Gashimov and Adlan Amagov.

Bekhan Khasiev, who operates the Absolute Championship Berkut promotion in the Chechen Republic, is well aware of this under-appreciated fact, and been leading the charge in promoting fighters from his country.

After eleven successful events within the span of a year, the ACB decided to expand beyond the confines of its own territory and join forces with the well established leaders in Russian MMA, M-1 Global. After a couple of months of negotiations, a joint venture was confirmed, which took place this past week in St. Petersburg Russia.

"The first idea was that the ACB league wanted to grow up and to leave the Caucasus and go into Europe and Russia" Khasiev told through a translator in St. Petersburg. "We have clients and partners that allowed us to work in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other big cities in Russia.

"Mr. Vadim Finkelchtein found out about this and suggested that maybe we could do this together. The first reason to do this is because we are friends with him; Bekhan and Vadim are friends. We thought it would be good for both promotions. M-1 is more than 17 years old and we thought it would be interesting for them to (join) with a young promotion like us. "

The event, titled M-1 Challenge 54/ACB 12, was an undeniable success for the fighters involved from the Chechen Republic. One of their most experienced competitors, Beslan Isaev, defeated former UFC fighter Cody McKenzie via first round knockout, while the remainder of their fighters went 4-2 on the card.

With the event firmly behind them, Khasiev revealed that their next destination would be Poland for ACB 13. Once that is complete, they will continue their ventures throughout Europe.

"We are planning to do our next event in Poland because we know that MMA is a developed scene there.  We also know that their biggest MMA star is our brother Mamed Khalidov - a Chechen native. After that, we will go out of Russia and into Europe. That is the next step."

While the UFC and Bellator's are continuously scouting talent from the Russia, Dagestan and the Chechen Republic, Khasiev believes this will not harm his promotion's ambitious expectations over the coming years. Not only will it serve as free promotion for their fighters and raise the awareness of MMA in the region, but he also believes that there will always be fighters available to compete on home soil.

"Every choice is that of the fighter because he is the one who is fighting; it is his choice. In our club and the ACB league, anyone can train there and fight, no matter if he is Russian, Chechnyan, or not Muslim. We are fighters first; our religion is sport. Those fighters choose where they want to fight."

Business is business. We are not going to kick the UFC out. We want to be on the same step as them - on the same line. Also, we want to shake them a little bit.  - Bekhan Khasiev

Several months ago, the ACB's founder Mairbek Khasiev, made headlines when he suggested that the promotion is interested in challenging the UFC's control of the global market. While many could have mistaken that for promoter speak to grab attention, Khasiev shared that sentiment and explained that while have no intention to eliminate the UFC or become aggressive competitors, they would like to carve their own slice of the market share.

"Mairbek Khasiev is my cousin; a very emotional man. However, he is cold (blooded) with his mind and knows what he wants. First of all, he is the founder of Fight Club Berkut. This is not only a Chechen fight club. We have lots of affiliates and branches all over the world. One of them is in Belgium, and lots are in Russia. Mairbek is also founder of the ACB league, and we know that our club is very ambitious and we are going to far in the coming years.

"Business is business. We are not going to kick the UFC out. We want to be on the same step as them - on the same line. Also, we want to shake them a little bit. In our plans, it is not only about the UFC. We want to be on the same level as One FC, Bellator, M-1 and others. We are going to prove we are on the same level and hope to (achieve) that very soon."

Such aspirations require sound financial backing, yet that is not something that Khasiev is concerned about.

"Our main resource is our fighters. We have a lot of stars in Chechnya and around the world who can help us. By this I do not mean financial resources, but like building stars and getting fighters. Secondly, (regarding financial resources) is not a concern. In the Chechen Republic, we always have very good relations amongst ourselves. Even if we get some sort of crisis, we are sure that we will find our way out of it."