SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia: M-1 Challenge featherweight champion Nate “The Train” Landwehr has captured the hearts and minds of Russian mixed-martial-arts fans since the first time he stepped into “The Rage” — the half-ring, half-cage used in M-1 Global competition – 1 ½ years ago.
Landwehr (12-2-0, M-1: 4-0-0), based 5,000 miles away from Russia in Clarksville, Tennessee, became an instant fan favorite in Russia, because of his ultra-aggressive fighting style, devil-may-care risky fights and, more than anything, his unparalleled showmanship.
“I have a good time,” Landwehr, admitted. “Fighters there like the great Fedor Emelianenko and fight like him: a calm storm. I just want to fight the best and be known as the most vicious MF to ever go through M-1, the fighter who took the most risks. Almost everybody over there has their guy to root for, the others like my style. I not only go out to win, I put on a helluva show.
“I went there to build my brand by taking risks. I wanted to transfer over and be their guy or beat up their guy. It’s different there. Kids are more into MMA. They’ve grown up either involved in or watching a lot of Sambo, grappling, and kick boxing. I think their president has a black belt in Sambo. Do you think (US President Donald) Trump knows that shit?”
Landwehr, 30, made his M-1 Global debut on September 23, 2017 at M-1 Challenge 83 in Kazan, Russia. The colorful Tennessean knocked out Mikhail Korobkov (13-3-1) in round two. Up next was a bloody war with Viktor Kolesnik in Moscow, less than two months later at M-1 Challenge 85, in which “The Train” won a split decision, snapping Kolesnik’s 13-fight unbeaten streak in the process.
The stage was set for Landwehr’s first title shot, against defending champion Khamzat Dalgiev (10-1), who had shocked the MMA world eight months earlier, upsetting M-1 Challenge featherweight titlist Ivan Buchinger, whose title reign lasted more than three years, by way of a shocking opening-round knockout punch.
Fighting for the first time in an M-1 Global main event, Landwehr successfully challenged Dalgiev at M-1 Challenge 95, punching his way to a second-round stoppage for the M-1 Challenge featherweight crown, on July 21, 2018.
Landwehr’s first title defense was this past December in Kazakhstan at M-1 Challenge Battle at Atyrau in Kazakhstan versus Andrey “Iron” Lezhnev (18-8-0), of Ukraine. Lezhnev went into the match having won nine of his last 10 fights, including the last three in a row, and he had been stopped only once in 25 professional MMA fights.
As customary pace for the popular American, Landwehr allowed his opponent to work aggressively in the opening round, but he got caught by a strong left hook, dropped to the canvas, and he was nearly finished off. Landwehr displayed a granite chin and survived, but Lezhnev controlled the action on the ground in the second round. Lezhnev started to show fatigue and in the third round, Landwehr flipped the switch to become the aggressor, landing numerous shots and eventually pounding and finishing Lezhnev on the ground.
Landwehr has a clause in his M-1 contract that allows him to leave M-1 Global after his second successful title defense to sign with the UFC. However, Landwehr has found freedom fighting in Russia, ironically, because M-1 officials let him do his thing, whether it concerns his walkout music, despite the lyrics, his bombastic post-fight celebrations, and unfiltered interviews as well as what gear he uses and merchandise he chooses to wear.
Obvious cultural differences aside, Landwehr believes that there are two distinct groups of MMA fans, young and old, particularly in Russia. “Russians in their twenties all speak decent English and listen to our music,” he noted. “M-1 Global brought this American over there and I got to be champion. They didn’t put up any obstacles for me; they just want the best fighters. I love to fight the best and M-1 does the best job of getting the best fighters. M-1 fighters have done well in the UFC, I don’t know if any have lost yet.”
Landwehr is due to have his next fight within a couple of months.
“If I could time-travel and go back to when I was a kid,” Landwehr concluded, “I’d be proud to see who I am today, because I got (M-1 challenge title) what I wanted!”