A Jiu Jitsu Delegation Travels to Chechnya, Part 1

Fightland Blog

By Nick "The Tooth" Gullo

Red Square, Moscow, just off the first plane. With our hosts Zaurbek, Arbi (the first Chechnya BJJ black belt), Rafael, Nick Bohli, Gui, me & Vinny.

It’s been a week, but I’m still shaking off the jet-lag from our trip to The Chechen Republic, which for those that don’t know, as I didn’t know, borders the Caspian Sea, which borders Iran, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. So we’re talking more Middle East than Eastern Europe.

Again, something I didn’t know until we flew thirteen hours from Los Angeles to Moscow, then three hours to the Southern tip of Russia, and drove twenty minutes into Grozny, the capital city of the Chechen Republic, and saw the a massive golden mosque that our translator pointed out as ‘The Heart of Chechnya.’

Chechnya is rebuilding from two brutal wars with Russia. The country is now stable and safer than any American city—at least that’s how I felt. The people are warm and welcoming, and they love grappling. I was part of what seems best to describe as a jiu jitsu delegation that included The Mendes Brothers, Vinny Magalhaes, Jackson Sousa, and Osvaldo Moizinho. The trip was sponsored by Berkut, a Chechen combat organization that promotes both BJJ and MMA events.

The founder of Berkut, Mairbek Khasiev, recently earned a silver medal at the IBJJF European Open. Understanding the role of sports in a thriving society, he launched Chechnya’s first BJJ tournament, and flew our crew out to teach seminars, help with refereeing the matches, and compete in super fights.


Nogi seminar in Moscow, aided by a translator.

Here I’m rolling with UFC featherweight fighter Zubaira Tukhugov.

Sushi with Vinny and our Chechen translator, Магомед Бакаев.

No alcohol in Chechnya, so we drank tea and scented sugar.

Gi seminar at the Berkut gym.

Jiu Jitsu in the gi is just taking hold, so the classes were much smaller than no gi.

The ‘Heart of Chechnya’. 


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Chechen Lightweight Mairbek Taisumov Is Destined for Greatness

How the US, Iran, and Russia Came Together to Save Olympic Wrestling

Sergei Beloglasov: Merited Master of Sports