Arm wrestling as a sport isn’t as widely watched or attended as wrestling or kickboxing. This is an unknown sport for many. At first glance, arm wrestling seems little more than a way for brothers and friends to challenge each other or show off, yet more is required than brute strength alone.
Mirtaleh Aslanov, a Super Heavyweight World Champion in arm wrestling, has the brute strength required and the skills to back it up. After taking an interest in arm wrestling as a teen, Aslanov turned to arm wrestling, focusing his talents on this sport. Growing up in Baku, Azerbaijan, Aslanov was interested in wrestling, judo, boxing and hand-to-hand combat. By the age of 16, Aslanov had placed first in his weight class (78kg), taking a gold medal while he was part of the Azerbaijani National Team. After this taste of victory, Aslanov dedicated his career toward mastering the skills needed to succeed at a high level in arm wrestling.
The techniques needed for arm wrestling require strategic analysis. Setting up the competitors in a match can take longer than the actual match. Athletes must keep their elbows on a pad on their side of the table, hand webbing level, and perfectly positioned. Some matches require opponents’ hands to be strapped together. Only when the conditions are met can the competition begin.
Now in the Super Heavyweight class (108kg +), Aslanov faces challengers larger than himself, although he is quite formidable on his own. Armwrestling, as Aslanov passionately insists, is more than physical might. It involves mastering back pressure, side pressure, and a plethora of tactics rooted in shear strength, such as climbing, cupping, slipping, hooking, and pressing. Aslanov spent years mastering these techniques, in 2008 he became a member of the Azerbaijan Armwrestling Federation, and in 2014, at that time almost 30, Aslanov began what he considered his official career in arm wrestling. He took a gold medal in the Super Heavyweight division at the European Championships held in Baku, Azerbaijan, his hometown.
Arm wrestling competitions happen yearly across the world. Aslanov has placed in the top three for the last eight years (except in 2020 and 2021 during certain health restrictions throughout the world). After his success in Azerbaijan, Aslanov took a Silver medal in Zagreb, Croatia, at the Sokol Marić World Cup and a gold medal in Seoul, Korea, at the Korea Silvis Classic. Following those victories, in 2017, Aslanov took two more Gold medals at the Korea Silvis Classic and the World Cup, respectively. In 2018, he placed third with a Bronze medal at the Arnold Classic (named after Arnold Schwarzenegger) and another Gold medal at the World Championships. 2019 saw another Bronze medal at the Arnold Classic, and 2022 brought a Silver Medal, also at the Arnold Classic. This year, Aslanov won a gold medal and Super Heavyweight Champion award at the Arnold Classic. The Arnold Classic is held in Columbus, Ohio.
These competitions aren’t just intense but fascinating to witness. The crowd’s enthusiasm is palpable. A few centimeters could mean the difference between a victory and a loss, and playing an odd number of matches ensures a clear victory. Winners can change lightning-fast during matches, which puts more pressure on athletes to know the techniques that will give them an edge against their opponents.
Aslanov strives to bring more recognition to arm wrestling in the United States as more than just a strength competition but a way to a healthy style for American youth.