NORTH HAVEN — Yuri Panferov is coming up in the world of mixed martial arts. Since turning pro about a year ago, the 26-year-old North Haven High School alum has won all five of his matches. He notched his most recent victory on Jan. 7 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
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.
Nicknamed “The Russian Polar Bear,” Panferov was born, and spent much of his youth in Moscow, before moving to the U.S. in 2015.
Panferov and his family settled in North Haven, where they had friends waiting.
“We came to the United States for a better life,” the 6-foot, 214-pound combatant said.
Back in Russia, Panferov had trained in mixed martial arts, and in the U.S., it just so happened his new home was across the street from Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts & Jiu-jitsu Training Center, located at 79 State St.
“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 Andrew Calandrelli, a former professional MMA fighter who retired in 2012.
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,” Calandrelli said. “He never believes me when I tell him that.”
Panferov's first amateur match was in 2016, and he’s gone on to accumulate multiple titles in MMA and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Chances are, if Panferov’s not in the ring, he’s at work – at least until that big MMA pay day comes. “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.