(CBS Local Sports)– Reporter Alzo Slade has been all over the world to cover crazy stories, but spending time to learn about how Dagestan in Russia became a wrestling and mixed martial arts hotbed ranks up there on his list.
Slade is a correspondent for “Vice” on Showtime and his report on the wrestling culture in Dagestan airs Sunday, April 5 at 8pm EST/PST on Showtime.
“This was my second time in Russia. This time I was in Dagestan and it’s a small republic in Russia. It was mostly cultural shock and these jokers are tough,” said Slade in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “You have to understand the history of Dagestan. They have a history of being a warrior culture. When I was over there, it felt like a modern day Sparta. They train these kids up from seven, eight years old to be fighters.”
Slade said he had one father tell him that if kids are healthy, they’ll train to be wrestlers. Dagestan’s most famous fighter is Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is a perfect 28-0 in his UFC career. The culture of wrestling is woven into the Russian identity and that’s why Slade says Russia and wrestling and mixed martial arts are synonymous.
“Those kids over there train and wrestle for about six hours a day,” said Slade. “There are already 35 Russians in the UFC. 21 of them come from Dagestan. They have like an 89% win rate. They don’t lose. One of the takeaways for me and I hope this comes across in the piece is that these kids and these folks over there are genuinely proud of their history as warriors. It’s not just about beating people up, it’s ingrained in them to be disciplined and to be the best at whatever it is that they do.”
Watch “VICE” on Showtime or stream it on the Showtime Anytime app.