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UFC fighter talks COVID-19 isolation in Dagestan

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Shamil Gamzatov discusses life in Dagestan in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

UFC Fight Night Zabit v Kattar: Weigh-Ins Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

On November 9, 2019, Shamil Gamzatov made his promotional debut at the UFC Fight Night event in Moscow, Russia, edging past Klidson Abreu in a tepid split decision victory.

Looking to build on the momentum of his initial win, Gamzatov signed a contract to face Ovince Saint Preux on April 25, 2020 at a UFC Fight Night show. However, as the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic continued to spread, the light-heavyweight fighter was forced to pull out due to travel restrictions leaving Russia.

Now back in his native Dagestan, Gamzatov spoke to UFC Russia about the social distancing policies in place and how he as a fighter has been handling isolation.

“The situation seems to be stable,” said Gamzatov. “Everything is going smoothly. Self-isolation is fully respected - no one is allowed to leave anywhere. For example, in [my native] Kaspiisk - a small town almost ten kilometres from Makhachkala - people are not allowed in there. The road was closed.

“And so is the case throughout Dagestan - roads are closed everywhere, and if someone decides to leave, they are turned back. All establishments are closed, takeaway food only works. But all people are calm, waiting.”

Gamzatov was expected to face Saint Preux this weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska but as COVID-19 continued to spread around the world, the UFC fighter knew he would not be able to travel to the United States.

“I knew in advance that I could not fight because I did not have a visa, and I was waiting for the paperwork. Then, when this disease started and spread, I realized that I probably wouldn’t have time, because all the embassies in Europe, particularly in Russia, were closing. Everything was closing. I just physically would not have time to get a visa.”

The Russian Federation currently has 52,763 confirmed cases, of which there are 456 deaths and 3,873 cured. Much of the country has been placed in lockdown, with people confined to their homes except for essential services and errands. This includes Dagestan, where Gamzatov resides.

The UFC light-heavyweight fighter admitted that he has not been able to train and stay in shape during the mandated lockdown.

“At the moment I am not training. In general, I can say that I’m sitting at home. When I realized that I could not fight, I just stopped going to the gym and realized that this whole situation would drag on and there simply was no point in straining too much.

At first, I simply slowed down in training, and then, when all the gyms were closed, I simply stopped going anywhere. Here, just last week, I went for a run in the park, and was turned back by the police and told to go home. There was a police everywhere, they just didn’t even let me go to the park.”

Gamzatov revealed that he would be willing to compete on UFC President Dana White’s proposed ‘Fight Island’ but stressed that it would depend on travel restrictions at the time. Until then, he plans to play video games and watch movies until the pandemic releases its grip on humanity.

“I think everyone is upset, but given everything that is happening around us and that people are dying, we need to think about more important things.”