Arslan Otchiyev, a Turkmenistan national chess champion, will set out to become a champ in a completely different sport. He’s set to make his professional MMA debut June 15 at CES 50 against Brendan Marotte.
Otchiyev, 28, who’s 4-4-1 as an amateur, is a six-time Turkmenistan national chess champion and played on his country’s Olympic team. He has since moved to Connecticut in 2011 to join his parents and brother and became a state champion in chess there as well. He said his experience playing chess has helped him as a fighter.
“Especially my Jiu-Jitsu game,” Otchiyev told MMASucka. “If I train really hard in chess for eight hours a day, then it really helps me with Jiu-Jitsu. When I do Jiu-Jitsu, I can calculate things. You think really fast. I can think faster and better when I practice a lot of chess and Jiu-Jitsu.”
Otchiyev said he became captivated by MMA in 2006 when the first fight he watched was Josh Barnett vs. Mark Hunt at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute. Barnett submitted Hunt with a kimura in just over two minutes.
“I asked what happened and [the people I was watching with] said, ‘That’s a submission.’ I was like, ‘You can win fights like that easily?’ I didn’t know what a submission was or that you could finish fights that quickly.”
Otchiyev picked up combat sambo training in Ukraine while attending school. He fell in love with training and decided to transition to MMA. He moved to Connecticut in order to get better training than he could have gotten in Ukraine.
“Ukraine didn’t have good levels of MMA training,” Otchiyev said. “I knew in America, I could train to be a good professional fighter. It’s probably 100x better here than Ukraine. High level coaches. It’s a completely different world to me.”
Otchiyev has described his style as combat sambo-based. He likes to stand and go for the knockout but will take it to the ground if he wants. The “Chessmmaster” said his favorite fighters are Khabib Nurmagomedov and Cody Garbrandt.
“I try to imitate them but I’m very far away from being at that level or having the same technique that they have,” Otchiyev said.
On going pro now, Otchiyev said it finally just felt like the right moment to.
“It’s been a long time,” he admitted. “I was trying to go pro in 2014 but I wasn’t in shape so I was taking these amateur fights and losing them. I didn’t have a good time to go pro.”
He faces Marotte, who is 1-0 as a professional, in his debut. CES 50 is set to go down at the Twin River Casino at Lincoln, RI on Friday, June 15.