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Saeed Dunkaev

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Saeed Dunkaev is a jiu-jitsu black belt from Chechnya, a rank earned from Leozinho Vieira, being one of the main athletes of his generation on the Masters’ division while representing the Checkmat team. Dunkaev was also widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the sport while working with the ACB organization (Absolute Championship Berkut), a Russian based, combat sports promotion that dominated the professional grappling landscape from 2015-2018, a period in which Saeed worked as the main match-maker for the jiu-jitsu side of the organization.

Saeed Dunkaev Jiu-Jitsu

Full Name: Saeed Magomed Dunkaev

Nickname: N/A

Lineage:  Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rolls Gracie > Romero Cavalcanti > Leonardo Vieira > Saeed Dunkaev

Main Achievements:

  • 3rd Place UAEJJF Grand Slam, AD (2020 Master)

Main Achievements (Colored Belts):

  • 1st Place IBJJF World Masters Championship (2018* purple, 2019** brown)
  • 1st Place IBJJF World Championship NoGi (2018 brown M1)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2019 brown M1)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship NoGi (2019 brown M1)
  • 1st Place IBJJF American Nationals (2018** purple M1)
  • 1st Place IBJJF American Nationals NoGi (2018** purple M1)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF World Masters Championship (2018 purple)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF World Championship NoGi (2017 purple, 2018* brown M1)

* Absolute
** Weight and Absolute

Favorite Position/Technique: Flow Passing

Weight Division: Meio Pesado (88,30 kg / 195.0 lbs)

Team/Association: Neezam JJ / Checkmat

Saeed Dunkaev Biography

Saeed Dunkaev was born on April 7, 1988, in Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya – a federal republic of the Russian Federation.

After the First Chechen War started in December 1994, the Dunkaev family moved to Moscow, fearing for their safety. In an interview given to BJJ Heroes back in March 2019, Saeed relived the experience:

I still remember very clearly. We were on a bus full of civilian people who were trying to escape the city. In front of the bus, there was a white flag hanging so that Russian soldiers wouldn’t shoot at the civilians. (…) at one point we were on a road and on the left were some Russian soldier checkpoints, and on the right was the deep forest. Out of nowhere, the soldiers started shooting at the bus. This was an old bus and had small windows, which helped us take cover while we were all escaping. The bus ran towards the forest (…) we got to a safe place eventually and luckily both of my parents and my aunt survived.

Saeed was 6, going on 7 years old at the time, and it was in the Russian capital that the young Chechen spent his formative years, during which time Dunkaev practiced a number of sporting activities including karate, soccer and even breakdancing. Later, in his late teens, Saeed turned to boxing, wrestling, and combat sambo. Although he competed in all three combat styles, he did so mainly for recreational purposes, and it wasn’t until he found jiu-jitsu, years later, that Saeed truly committed to a sport for an extended period of time.

After graduating from university in Russia, Saeed decided to take his life’s direction into his own hands. With his future all laid out for him – a regular, steady job with a regular family, Dunkaev decided to snub his nose at common sense and, in the wise words of Trainspotting’s “Rent Boy” Rentton, “choose life”, moving to the United States on July 2010.

While in the USA, Saeed went through a variety of jobs in the hospitality industry before settling as a semi long-distance truck driver.

In 2013 Dunkaev decided to start training mixed martial arts (MMA), finding a gym at walking distance from his house. Although he enjoyed MMA, this academy was limited to 2 MMA classes per week, with the remaining schedule being more geared towards BJJ. After a few grappling classes, Saeed discovered he enjoyed it more than he did cage-fighting and decided to pursue it.

Saeed started training BJJ at Gracie Barra Costa Mesa with coach Scott Carr, but he soon decided he wanted to pursue jiu-jitsu competition seriously and ended up moving towards the neighboring Art Of Jiu-Jitsu Academy (AOJ) with Rafael and Guilherme Mendes – who promoted Dunkaev to blue belt.

For 3 years Saeed trained at AOJ, but with time he felt a lack of chemistry with the team: “I didn’t like where the environment was going” Dunkaev explained. “I felt like each year it was becoming a cold, arrogant environment. (…) no real bond of friendship between competitors.”. In Saeed’s mindset, “training for competitors should be like we all train smashing each other but in the end, we are all team, all friends. At AOJ, as a competitor I felt like a lot of favoritism was involved,” and for those reasons, he made the hard decision of leaving the team.

While browsing for his “forever home” in BJJ, thinking about teams such as Atos HQ or GB Northridge, Saeed talked to one of his friends, Max Ruvinsky, who had also left AOJ some time ago, having since joined Checkmat Headquarters. Dunkaev was not terribly familiar with Checkmat as the team as the academy lacked a social media presence, but after speaking with Max decided to try it out and was immediately impressed with the atmosphere and toughness of training, deciding to join.

It was under the instruction of coach Leonardo Vieira that Saeed became one of the most prolific athletes on the American circuit, earning medals in the top tournaments in his category. His wins on the maps earned him his purple, brown and black belts from coach Vieira, the latter in a ceremony that took place in January 2020.

In 2020 Saeed Dunkaev launched his own school, Neezam Jiu-Jitsu – the name representing the word “discipline” in the Chechen language.

Work as ACBJJ Match Maker

Well known in the combat sports community, the ACB was, by the end of the 2010s decade, one of the strongest professional martial arts promotions in the world, who turned to jiu-jitsu around that time. Featuring all the top talent in our sport, the promotion had Dunkaev was the event’s top grappling match-maker.

Saeed’s involvement with ACB (originally Berkut BJJ) came by way of his close friend Zaurbek Khasiev, the son of the founder and president of the enterprise. “At that time I was a student of the Mendes brothers,” Saeed explained to BJJ Heroes. Zaurbek and Dunkaev shared a common interest in grappling which led them to organize the first event in Chechnya. As Zaurbek’s father appreciated the event, more money was poured on a second, bigger card for a Moscow show. That was Berkut BJJ 2 (Galvão vs Barral). Fueled by the success of these two first shows, more investment came for a wider professional league, a production heavily supported by Saeed.

Despite all the quality of the cards and luxurious production, the promotion eventually fell through in 2018, after over 20 professional events. The reasons behind the departure from BJJ appeared to be partly due to the lack of excitement provided by the athletes who competed in the show, which led the financial backing to be withdrawn.

Garry Tonon Grappling Escapes

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