Only days ago it appeared that exciting MMA prospect and SAMBO World Champion Rasul Mirzaev would be preparing to make his American debut with Bellator. The once promising story has taken a tragic turn as Mirzaev faces charges in the death of a nineteen-year-old Russian student as a result of a bar fight.
The incident in question happened at a Russian night club, where Mirzaev was enjoying a night out with his girlfriend. According to Russian news site NTV, an apparently drunk student aggressively approached Mirzaev’s girlfriend. This led to a heated verbal exchange between Mirzaev and the student. At some point, Mirzaev struck the intoxicated student with a single punch, which caused the man to hit his head on the ground. The incident was filmed by a security camera.
The man, identified as Ivan Agafonov, regained consciousness and was taken to a nearby hospital by his friends and apparently waited a long time for medical treatment. While this is not a shock to anyone who has ever had to go to an emergency room late at night/early in the morning, it appears that after being admitted he did not receive the attention he needed. After his friends left to find a doctor, he apparently fell out of his hospital bed and never regained consciousness. Agafonov died four days later.
The Russian Federation in Moscow brought the charge of “intentional infliction of serious bodily injury that resulted in death,” which carries a sentence of 15 years. Upon hearing the news of the nineteen-year-old’s death, Mirzaev immediately turned himself over to authorities. Mirzaev admitted to striking the student but stated that he did not intend to kill the man.
Mirzaev’s lawyers are pushing for time to investigate all aspects of the incident and are expected to use a legal exception to gain leniency in the case. The exception applies specifically to those who are deemed “top class professional [fighters].” This designation would imply that Mirzaev could not help the amount of damage, nor foresee the consequences at the time, he caused from one strike due to years of training.
Mirzaev had gained a reputation in Russian as a ferocious featherweight striker with rare (for a featherweight) one punch knockout power in addition to his strong grappling. These factors can be used to help prove this exception and be a factor for a reduced sentence but it can potentially backfire if the government were to prove intent.
This exception was used successfully in the case of former boxer Alexander Kuznetsov, who beat a man to death who had attempted to sexually assault his child. Kuznetsov was still imprisoned for his actions but served less than three years for the same crime that Mirzaev stands accused of.
The tragic incident has gripped Russia due to a multitude of factors, including Mirzaev’s ethnic background. Mirzaev is from the Republic of Dagestan, an area in southern Russia which borders the more well-known troubled region of Chechnya. The region has tensions with Moscow due to some militant minorities in the region. Mirzaev’s coaches and representation have repeatedly tried to portray this as an isolated incident having nothing to do ethnicities in an effort to quell possible violence between all sides. Mirzaev was already known figure in Russia due to his success in SAMBO, and had trained in Moscow for several years. The Russian government has often promoted successful members from its troubled republics (as with Russian wrestling legend Buvaisar Saitiev of Chechnya) to act as an olive branch between the regions and the government in Moscow. While his background is unlikely to have any outcome on the current situation, it causes all sides to proceed with caution.
Regardless of potential political and personal fallout, Mirzaev has expressed his extreme regret over the incident and has apologized to the family of the student saying that he had no intention of causing his death. Sources within the Russian government have stated that Mirzaev and his lawyers have completely cooperated with authorities.
Bellator has issued no comment on the situation and likely will not as it appears the Mirzaev had not officially finished his paperwork and joined the organization. A fact that both MMAJunkie and Mirzaev’s camp have confirmed. Mirzaev’s once promising MMA future is now murky at best, but means little in comparison to the charge he now faces.
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