Russia’s Maria Zotova may not look like your average martial arts champion, but the karate black belt is a national champion and, in MMA, where gimmicks are as important as titles, could just become the new ‘Karate Hottie’.
American UFC fighter Michelle Waterson became well known as ‘The Karate Hottie’, making the name her own by holding a black belt in American freestyle karate as well as juggling a decent media career and modeling commitments.
Being a bona fide fighter and beauty, UFC favorite and former champion, and Invicta FC champion, has helped the 33-year-old garner a 1.2 million following on Instagram and bags of popularity worldwide.
But she could have her title usurped by a 20-year-old from Russia. Meet Maria Zotova. The stunning youngster is a Russia karate national team member and on August 26, became the new U21 Russian karate champion.
Nearly 900 participants from 60 Russian regions descended on Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, for the Russian national karate championships.
Zotova was one of them. A black belt owner and holder of the prestigious ‘master of sport title in Russia, Zotova may not look like your average martial artist, but the karate queen is a multiple-time national champion in her home country.
And she picked up gold yet again in the U21 category, becoming national champion once again and dedicating the win to her father. “Thanks to by beloved dad for the preparations!” a joyous Zotova wrote on Instagram.
Zotova can add the gold to another gold medal won with teammates Irina Troitskaya and Polina Kotlyarova at the Karate1 Premier League 2019 first stage in Paris in January, which serves as a system for qualification to the Olympic Karate tournament.
That same trio also secured Russian national championship in Makhachkala in Dagestan in November, defending their title won a year earlier, and won silver back in April in the third stage of the same Karate1 Premier League 2019 in Rabat, Morocco. They won bronze at the European Karate Championships in Spain’s Guadalajara.
The young karate-ka’s (the official term for a karate practitioner) story at elite level begins in 2017, when she won Russian Students Sports Union championship, after which she began training with the national team.
The opportunities to earn well and become a big star in the world of karate are but slim for Zotova, which could potentially precipitate a move into the martial arts world, where her compatriot Khabib Nurmagomedov holds the lightweight championship belt in the UFC.
If Zotova makes it to the same promotion, which also features Waterson, she could make her claim to be the UFC's new 'Karate Hottie'.