Although Dagestan has long been a popular choice for Indian grapplers wanting to polish their skills, sports fans in India are not overly acquainted with the idea and may question the reasons for them to go to distant Russia to improve their wrestling.
DAGESTAN PROVIDES YOUNG INDIAN WRESTLERS WITH QUALITY COMPETITION
The fame of Chhatrasal in Punjab and Haryana cannot be denied. Young wrestlers who want to hang with the best in India leave their local akharas when the time is right, to test themselves in the water of New Delhi. A brief look into the names of wrestlers who have come out of Chhatrasal can easily be considered a who’s who of modern Indian wrestling – Yogeshwar Dutt, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia, Amit Kumar Dahiya, medalists at the likes of Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and World Championships.
Why then are young wrestlers, such as lightweight wrestler Aman Sehrawat, leaving for a stint in Dagestan? The answer lies in the number of highly talented wrestlers grinding there, thus providing young Indians with lots of quality competition. Training only at home, with the same partners and opponents over and over again, according to them, may stall progress. Thus, Dagestan, alongside Vladikavkaz and Yakutia, has become a finishing school of sorts for Indian grapplers trying to reach the top of the game.
WRESTLING AND MMA ARE THE ONLY POPULAR SPORTS IN THE REGION
Deepak Punia, who narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo 2020, says: “To become a national champion, you leave your local akhara and do everything you can to join Chhatrasal. And if you want to win a big international medal, the Olympics or World Championship, you go to Russia.”
Bajrang Punia, who is currently there, echoes the same sentiment, noting that combat sports are the only ones in fashion there: “Here, it’s only wrestling. There’s no other sport. Only UFC and wrestling.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov invited Ciryl Gane to Dagestan to improve his wrestling before UFC 285 👀 pic.twitter.com/mtqxXmcDqW
— Best MMA Moments (@XcellentMMA) March 6, 2023