Local MMA fighter making a name for himself

North Haven High School graduate Yuri Panferov is coming up in the world of mixed martial arts. According to the website tapology.com, Panferov is currently ranked 35th out of 322 fighters in the U.S. Pro Light Heavyweight division, and is third among light heavyweights in the northeast. Fighting at 214 pounds, Panferov also has accumulated multiple titles in MMA and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. 

Nicknamed the “Russian Polar Bear,” Panferov was born, and spent much of his youth in Moscow, before moving to the United States in 2015 at the age of 15.

“We came to the United States for a better life,” he said. 

Panferov and his family settled in North Haven, where they had friends waiting.

Back in Russia, Panferov had trained in mixed martial arts, and in the U.S., it just so happened that his new home was across the street from Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts & Jiu-jitsu Training Center.

“When we first came to North Haven, and I saw the gym, I knew I wanted to start training right away,” Panferov said.

“I couldn’t do any matches until I was 18, so I had to wait a little bit.”

At Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts & Jiu-jitsu Training Center, Panferov caught the eye of gym owner and trainer Andrew Calandrelli.

Panferov and Calandrelli now train six to eight hours a day, six days a week, in the disciplines of boxing, kickboxing, Jiu-jitsu and wrestling.

“I’ve told him since he started that he’s the most naturally gifted all-around athlete I’ve ever coached. He never believes me when I tell him that," said Calandrelli, a former professional MMA fighter who retired in 2012.

Panferov's first match was in 2016, and he turned pro a little over a year ago.

On Jan. 7,  Panferov defeated Anthony Benevides at Mohegan Sun.

Until his big pay day comes, to make ends meet, Panferov works at the Home Depot in Hamden.

“Saturday, you’re a celebrity with hundreds of people screaming your name, today you’re back working at Home Depot,” the local fighter said in a Facebook post.



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