It doesn’t take long when talking with Ramil Kamilov to realize he lives and breathes mixed martial arts.
The amateur lightweight out of Calgary has faced a great deal of adversity in his life. Throughout the trials he’s endured, Kamilov, 21, has remained focused and ready for the next chapter in his career.
He’s coming off his most recent win at XFFC 21 – his first fight in nearly two years. And he has not missed a step, still producing action-packed fights.
“Each one of my fights, if you watch, have been exciting. If mixed martial arts is an art, then I paint masterpieces,” Kamilov proclaimed.
The journey, not only returning to competition, but from his early childhood has been a struggle.
Growing up in Aktau, Kazakhstan, Kamilov would often be fighting in the streets to defend himself from other kids.
“If there was a group of Kazak kids, they could jump me right there,” he said, when referring to the racial tension in the area.
After moving to Calgary when he was 13, he began his true MMA journey.
Although Kamilov has a background in taekwondo and wrestling, he never discovered the sport of MMA until he moved to Canada.
While looking up random fight videos on YouTube, Kamilov came across a Fedor Emelianenko fight. And from then on, he was hooked.
“When I saw that guy fight, that’s what really pushed me into MMA. From then on I was like, okay, this is cool.”
That spark led him to Champions Creed Gym in Calgary. Initially, he was thrown off by the training it would take to be a full-time MMA fighter. But as time went on, he found the right rhythm.
“I would come through and just try and spar everyone really hard. I thought it would make me tougher, but I found I had to tone that back, a lot,” Kamilov said.
“I didn’t start taking it serious until I was 16, going on 17.”
After settling in at Champions Creed, Kamilov raved about the coaching staff at the gym he calls home.
“It’s definitely a big gym, but the coaching staff there is just really great,” he said.
The lightweight fighter would start his MMA career with two wins in the span of three weeks. The latter of those wins would send him to the final match of the 2017 Canadian MMA National Amateur Championships. Kamilov was defeated in that matchup and the tough loss sent him back to the drawing board.
“I had too much heart to quit at the time,” he explained.
Kamilov said, after that loss, he wanted to bounce back quick and returned to the gym a little too early, leading to injuries hampering a comeback.
“I pushed it way too hard, way too soon and got re-injured again. That was a very, very tough emotional moment.”
The setback was tough on Kamilov because he visualized going to the IMMAF World Championships in the fall of that same year, only to have it fall from his fingertips.
That was nearly two years ago.
The Turn Around
During his time away from the cage, Kamilov hasn’t slowed down his dedication to the fight game. Continuing to train and learn, he opened up an academy where he coaches younger talent in muay thai and kickboxing.
RK Fight Lab is a training facility for kids and teenagers, yet Kamilov finds the coaching gratifying and is even helping him become a more well-rounded martial artist.
“It has done big things for becoming a better fighter because I have to be a coach, and detect things,” he said.
Along with the new academy, Kamilov said he found different ways to train. He credits a lot of strength training, visualization and movement as key aspects he focused on during his time way from competition.
So, although he didn’t compete for a long period of time, he remained fully enveloped in every aspect of the fight game.
“True success only can come in this sport if you put in more work,” Kamilov said when talking about his training regime.
The nearly two-year layoff came to an end in March when he returned to action with a unanimous decision victory in Grande Prairie at XFFC 21.
“It was a bit hard to get back in there after two years, with the nerves. But I was very glad to be back.”
The scenario is eerily similar from two years ago. In 2017, Kamilov competed three weeks before Nationals, and this year he did just the same.
Although this go-around, Kamilov plans to not let history repeat itself and go on to win the 2019 Canadian MMA National Amateur Championships in April.
“I feel good for it. There’s always a bit of uncertainty because you don’t know who’s going to show up. It kind of adds to the nerves because there’s less that you can control, but it makes it fun at the same time.”
The Canadian MMA Nationals are just around the corner, and Kamilov aims to put a stamp on the tournament that slipped away from him a couple years ago.
“I feel good for it, man.”