Since the birth of Mixed Martial Arts, Combat Sambo has been providing fans with some of the toughest, most dangerous contenders the sport has ever known. From Oleg Taktarov, to the Emelianenko brothers, right through to Khabib Nurmagomedov in the present day, Combat Sambo fighters arguably had an advantage in the juvenile days of MMA given the art itself already blended both stand up and grappling elements. Nowadays, though, the playing field is far more even, and athletes far more well-rounded.
As with the case of Nurmagomedov, alongside a multitude of tough, battle-ready Russian and Eastern European fighters, however, Combat Sambo is far from ceasing it’s production line of greats. Indeed finding talented fighters from this particular background isn’t hard; the search, then, needs to become a little narrower in order to root out the best of the best.
Bulgarian Tihomir Blagovestov is one such elite Combat Sambo practitioner. Claiming gold at the 2015 European Combat Sambo Championships to erase the memories of a silver at the World Combat Sambo Championships the previous year, Blagovestov can also lay claim to gold at the 2014 Sambo World Cup, alongside his production of a plethora of medals from podium finishes that fill out his trophy cabinet yet further.
It was MMA’s gain then, when in late 2014 the busy Blagovestov made his MMA debut in his native Bulgaria. The featherweight rattled off a string of successive first round submission finishes, that accounted for Plamen Bachverov (now 5-2) and Giorgios Tsilidis (now 5-4) among others. The 4-0 Blagovestov would then cross the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new place to train – with other elite athletes. He found the perfect place at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With back-to-back wins in the CXF promotion out of California, Blagovestov cemented his position of one of MMA’s most promising prospects, though Derion Chapman would finally push the Bulgarian beyond the first stanza, forcing Blagovestov to settle for a Decision victory. Before him, Fard Muhammad fared no better than his European counterparts; a first round submission accounted for him all too easily.
With excellent takedown defence and superior grappling, ‘The Bulgarian Lion’ is free to dictate the pace and form of any fight with solid striking combinations and fast, precise level changes. A huge handful for any burgeoning featherweight on the scene today, it may be just a matter of time before the name Tihomir Blagovestov is as familiar to Western eyes as that of Combat Sambo’s forerunners.