Determination, faith and discipline: An interview with Arthur Odilbekov

Determination, faith and discipline can lead a person to spectacular heights. Shodmon Hojibekov speaks with martial arts champion Arthur Odilbekov of Tajikistan to find out what drives him.

Odilbekov awaits the start of a contest in Buryatia, Russia. Photo: Courtesy of Arthur Odilbekov Odilbekov awaits the start of a contest in Buryatia, Russia. Courtesy of Arthur Odilbekov

Determination, faith and discipline can lead a person to spectacular heights.

Twenty-nine year-old Arthur Odilbekov of Tajikistan started training in his early-teenage years and has won many national and international tournaments in combat sports like taekwondo, sambo, and mixed martial arts. He is the the 2012 World Pankration Champion. Shodmon Hojibekov spoke with Odilbekov on behalf of, to find out what drives him.

Shodmon Hojibekov (TheIsmaili): Arthur, what does it take to become a champion?

Arthur Odilbekov (AO): A wish, alone, to become a champion is not enough. One should follow certain principles from an early age – determination, hard work, trust in God, and respect.

Let me compare myself to some of my classmates: they spent all their time partying, while I spent most of my life at the gym. Hard work and trust in God are also important factors for me. These two are really highly correlated. A high level of respect is very important too – respect for the trainer, the gym you train in and the person you meet in the octagon (the arena in which combat takes place). Overall, it is a set of principles that demand a high level of devotion.

TheIsmaili: How do you balance your time between exercise, work, studies, friends, and everything else? Is there a “recipe for Arthur Odilbekov's success”?

AO: Discipline and planning are very crucial here. Usually, I get up at 5:40 AM, take a shower, pray, and do my morning exercises for about 20 – 30 minutes. I spend six hours a day in the gym with only one break for lunch and a nap. I interact with my family and friends after the training and like many others, I use social networks to keep connected with many of them.

All of this changes during tournaments and championships; when the training is more intense, there are almost no personal interactions. I work as bailiff in Yakutsk, but my employer is very cooperative and [permits me] to have a flexible working schedule to stay focused also on my training. Participation in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the USA requires sponsorship and promotions, so I am trying to win as many tournaments as possible to be able to reach my goal.

TheIsmaili: Do you have a role model?

AO: When it comes to sports a few people inspire me, particularly Fedor Emelyanenko with his amazing calmness in life and in the octagon, his attitude towards training and his opponents, and Bob Schreiber, whose fighting techniques hold the audience's attention in a hypnotic manner. But if we talk about life in general, then I try to follow the path of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

TheIsmaili: What inspires you most?

AO: My family's support.

TheIsmaili: What upsets you most?

AO: Mistakes on octagon and in life.

TheIsmaili: What do you value most in life?

AO: Friendship and loyalty. But something that makes me personally happy and that I value the most is respect.

TheIsmaili: Is there a message you would like to convey to the younger generation?

AO: Get involved in sports. Gyms have a specific aura: they distracts from bad habits. The most important thing is to stay away from bad things. They [young people] should use their brains to come to positive conclusions.