What was once described as a frat boy’s drunken attempt at showboating has become a competitive sport. Armwrestling has grown from clumsy displays of bravado to a full-fledged, worldwide sport recognized by governments around the globe. For Mirtaleh Aslanov, arm wrestling has become a passion and a firm career path.
Born in 1985 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Aslanov first discovered arm wrestling as a teenager. He quickly fell in love with the sport and began training. Two years later, Aslanov debuted on the international stage at the World Armwrestling Championships in the Russian Federation in 2003 as part of the Azerbaijani National Team, taking a Gold in Junior Boys Right Hand (78kg) and a Silver in Junior Boys Left Hand (78kg).
Aslanov would go on to prove himself as the first to win a Gold medal in the Men’s Super heavyweight category at the European Championships, as well as medaling at the World Super Heavyweight Championship (Men 108kg +).
The government recognized Aslanov as the best in his weight class, which inspired him to pursue arm wrestling on the world stage. He began training in earnest, dedicating himself to the rigorous discipline of arm wrestling, and in 2008 he became a member of the Azerbaijan Arm Wrestling Federation. Aslanov would practice judo, hand-to-hand combat, boxing, and wrestling. Aslanov considers 2014 to be the year he truly began to find success as an arm wrestler, when at the European Championships, held in his hometown, Baku, he became the first to win a Gold medal for Azerbaijan in the Super Heavyweight division.
As competitors are often paired by weight, his ascent into the Super Heavyweight (108kg +) division offered a unique challenge. Now, Aslanov would face off against men potentially larger and stronger than himself. Unlike amateurs, professionals rely on a blend of skill, technique, and strength. Aslanov has emphasized the importance of mastering nuanced elements and techniques like back pressure, side pressure, and a host of other tactics, including climbing, cupping, slipping, hooking, and pressing.
Arm wrestling is gaining popularity as well. Spectators will find these battles intense and enthralling, feeling the suspense as a victory is mere centimeters away. These matches can move with lightning speed once the refs are satisfied with hand and elbow placement. Webbing alignment, the space between the index finger and thumb, is vital. At times, referees may spend more time on the hand placement than the length of a single match. Depending on the competition, hands may be strapped together, and victory in one round doesn’t always guarantee success in the next, as judges strictly uphold the rules, calling fouls when necessary.
Aslanov has seen continued success since his first Gold in 2014. Subsequent triumphs include a Silver in the Sokol Marić World Cup and a Gold at the Korea Silvis Classic, both in 2016. Two Gold medals were won in 2017, one at the World Cup and again at the Korea Silvis Classic. In 2018, Aslanov took another gold at the World Championships and a bronze at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. The Arnold Sports Festival is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger and is by far the largest arm wrestling event in the world. In 2019, Aslanov retook bronze, and then in 2022, he took silver. Finally, in 2023, Aslanov took home the gold and the Super Heavyweight Champion at the Arnold Classic.
Aslanov has now set his sights on expanding the reach and popularity of arm wrestling in the United States, exposing a teenage audience to this captivating sport.
About the Author
Jay Perez is a sports and events writer who loves nothing more than to discover new sports events.