Says two-time Asian and world kickboxing champion, three-time U.S. combat sambo champion, and film actor, Shukhrat Yusupov, sharing his formula for successShukhrat Yusupov is not the first actor to start his journey in the sports arena. He is a two-time champion of Asia and the world, a three-time champion of America in sambo, and has 41 projects in show business in various countries under his belt. Audiences are always amazed by the determination and work ethic of such heroes. The successful athlete and actor shared with us the secrets of his achievements and his plans

Shukhrat, you have numerous international awards for successes in more than 10 martial arts. You graduated from two universities, play the piano, are interested in philosophy, and spend a lot of time reading books. How do you manage to do so much?

become A class driver

 Since the age of 12, I set a goal to be exemplary in everything: to be the perfect son so that my mother would be proud of me; the best brother so that no one could hurt my sister; and in the future, a model husband, father, and grandfather. From childhood, I not only trained physically a lot but also developed intellectually and spiritually. I read many books and articles and loved to learn. For me, the mind is the most important “muscle.” I always wanted to break the stereotype that a boxer can only fight. That’s why I graduated from two universities – first the pedagogical military faculty to get the rank of lieutenant, and later – economics. I always trained a lot, worked, studied, and then started acting in movies.

I remember when I first became the champion of Uzbekistan and then came to my uncle’s son’s wedding. Right there on the microphone, it was announced, “Our nephew became the champion of the country! We all cheered for you and are very proud of you!” I was always a modest, simple guy. Perhaps this was a great motivation for me to move forward.

Why did kickboxing become your main sport?

 Kickboxing is a versatile, spectacular, and tough sport. I also loved professional boxing and Thai boxing, although I once played volleyball, football, and basketball and was interested in other sports. But in the section that my uncle’s friend brought me to at the age of 14, I started seriously engaging in kickboxing. They offered me a choice – boxing or kickboxing. At that time, I was a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and since kickboxing had many elements of fighting – involving both hands and feet, using all muscle groups – I chose it. It is a tough, spectacular, and very impressive sport. Thus began my career in the world of martial arts, and within a year and a half, I became a prize-winner at the championship of Uzbekistan. The following year, I became the strongest and won the country’s gold medal. At the same time, I studied, trained, and worked – I moved forward fanatically, not stopping for anything. Yes, it was not easy, but I had clear goals.

With such a load, did you still have the energy to work?

I started working at 14 – selling video cassettes. At 18, I was already a prominent athlete, working as the head of security at a nightclub, and began engaging in professional boxing. At that time, I sparred with two world kickboxing champions, who were 5–6 years older than me. No one could withstand fights with them because both their hands and legs were knockout, and they won in the first round. Many refused from the first round, but I was the only one who sparred with them to the end. True, many did not like me for this, but everyone respected me. Because I never gave up and fought to the end. No one could defeat me.

At 20, they organized a fight for me to decide if I deserved a professional boxing license. A year later, I became the boxing champion of Uzbekistan. This was the first case where a professional kickboxer became a professional boxer. I competed in kickboxing, boxing, and at 22, added Thai boxing (Muay Thai).

How did you get into movies? What was your first role?

I had been friends with Farrukh Saipov for a long time – we knew each other long before he started acting and became a star. One director asked him to find a “characteristic street representative” for the film. There were two episodes, which were easy for me because I knew that environment, grew up in it – such were the times then. After the premiere, many liked and remembered me. Then I was immediately invited to the film “Fatima and Zukhra,” where the role was larger. The tape became the best film in the CIS in 2005, the discs were sold even in America, Turkey, Dubai, and other countries. I was increasingly invited to Uzbek films, I began to communicate with our movie stars, learned from them, watched how they got into the role, created an image. Then there were Russian projects, I also appeared in two Indian films, a Kazakh music video… To date, I have 41 international projects under my belt.

Have you already acted in America?

I was involved in films with Hollywood stars such as Armand Assante and Vincent Cassel. I wanted to start filming, but plans were changed by COVID, and I then flew home. Now, I hope to resume this work. I liked working with director and actor Will Roberts very much. Armand Assante became a good friend of mine. Once during filming, he approached me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Shukhrat, you are a great actor. You don’t act, you live the role as in life, genuinely.” His assessment meant a lot to me and motivated me greatly.

Shukhrat, what is your personal recipe for success? What helped you achieve everything?

It can be said that in this success formula, 99% is persistent, hard, often inhuman labor, and 1% is talent. You must always work on yourself not only physically but also mentally, spiritually, train your character and will. Long ago, I realized and made it a rule for life: to develop willpower – always do what needs to be done, not what you want to do.

I’ll give an example. To get to the university, which was more than an hour away, for the first class at 8:00, I had to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go to the morning workout. Rain, snow, fog, cold, -20°C or -30°C – it didn’t matter, I still dressed and trained. Every day except Sunday, I fanatically trained 2–3 times a day. Regardless of whether I had a headache or was tired after studying – I went to train. I knew that if I stopped – I would lose. The strongest always wins, the one who doesn’t pity himself, puts in labor, pain, blood.

Do you still engage in martial arts now?

Yes, I continue and engage not only in kickboxing. After moving to America, I won five gold medals. I was three times the U.S. champion in combat sambo, the champion in unifight (universal fight). You can’t stop: to lose shape, just four days are enough. Besides, it’s like weight: you can gain quickly, but losing is difficult. You always need to try to stay in shape because when you achieve another victory and then enjoy the fruits of your labor – this feeling is incomparable with anything in the world.

Is there something you regret?

 Is it a secret, or will you tell? I regret that I have time and opportunities. We often go to Mexico with friends: we supply food, clothes, shoes for children. In cities with tourism, life is more or less good, but outside the city, there are not even basic conditions. And we distribute essential items to these poor people, bring gifts and sweets for holidays. The children don’t rush with the words “give me, give me,” but simply line up and wait their turn. And when they thank, it’s such sincerity! But no matter how much we bring, it’s not enough. I have a desire to help people and, above all, children not only in Mexico but around the world. I would like to create my foundation and support those in need. Not only those who need food but also, for example, beginner athletes, students, gifted youth… I remember how difficult it was to buy even boxing gloves. Support is necessary in any field. I hope I can do it too.

Shukhrat, who played a decisive role in your life?

Of course, first of all, it’s my beloved mother, Khamrakulova Makhira. A simple school teacher of Russian language and literature. She tirelessly supported me, helped, and always said: “Shukhrat, whatever you do in life – do only good.” I also want to thank my brilliant trainers who were particularly significant to me: Ravil Jumatayev, Rahim Mirashilov, Misha Makhkamov, Sardor Tashkhojaev, Batyr Zakirov, Ruslan Dadakhanov, Adham Rashidov, Davron Kadyrov and Boris Brezhnev from Los Angeles. And I consider the talented director and operator Bakhodir Yuldashev my mentor in the art world.

Photo from the personal archive of Shukhrat Yusupov

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