Donkey basketball matches clueless riders with over-worked farm animals for complete mayhem. The International Pancake Day Race pits America vs. England in a decades-old tradition that no one thinks is weird. Even high-speed tractor racing makes NASCAR look like elementary school recess.
But of all the wacky “sports” humans invent, Russian slap fighting takes the cake as the most ridiculous competition I have ever laid eyes on. Even better, I can’t look away once it begins.
What Is Russian Slap Fighting?
Welcome to the world of competitive slapping.
The rules are simple enough: Two people stand across the table from one another. The object is to open-hand slap your opponent into oblivion. “Fighters” exchange face-slapping blows until one person is either knocked out or retires because, well, getting walloped in the face really f–ing hurts. Winners collect a purse ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand at bigger competitions.
Chalking your hand is ideal for (I guess?) the cloud of dust that explodes off your foe’s cheek. The arena is tightly packed with spectators prepared to catch a knockout victim before they hit the ground. Smelling salts revive the loser while the winning slapper revels in victory. Cotton in the ear seems standard, which looks about as useful as wearing shoulder pads to a basketball game.
The main YouTube channel that houses the growing Russian sport’s highlights has almost six million subscribers and over 950 million channel views.
I dove deep into their archive looking for the best knockout I could find — There are hours upon hours of this Shakespearean poetry to watch. From monstrous men to diminutive firecrackers who have no concept of pain, one man came up over and over and over again.
His name is Vasily Kamotskiy. Basically, he’s the Babe Ruth of slap fighting.
Russian Slap Fighting Champion Vasily Kamotskiy
The farmer from Krasnoyarsk attended the 2019 Sarychev Power Expo hoping to get an autograph from the event’s organizer, Russian powerlifter Kirill Sarychev. Instead, he was accidentally introduced to his life’s calling.
The made-for-Hollywood story that follows, which was told by Russia Beyond, ranks up there with any rags-to-riches tale I’ve ever heard:
“When Vasily rocked up at the event, he saw signs encouraging people to enter a slapping contest and a pelmeni eating competition. Now, at this point you should know his nickname is “Pelmen” (literally “The Dumpling”) due to his pelmeni gorging prowess. After putting his name down for both, Vasily managed to eat more dumplings than anyone else and also slapped his opponents to oblivion (he does weigh in at 168 kg!), scooping 30,000 rubles ($466) money prize in the process.”
Dumpling — as he’ll be referred the rest of this article and in the stories I tell my grandchildren — became an Internet sensation. His exploits at the Siberian Power Show’s slapping championship in 2019 have over 14 million views in just one YouTube video, plus millions more in clips all over social media.
Russian Slapping Championships 2019
In April 2020, video surfaced of Dumpling going head-to-head with Wagner da Conceicao Martins, better known in the mixed martial arts world as “Zuluzinho.” It was the Brazilian MMA fighter in a slap-off with Russia’s dumpling-devouring heavyweight in a prison-cell setting.
Zuluzinho drew Dumpling as they exchanged the maximum of five slaps. The 150,000 rubles in prize money (about $2,000 in America) was split evenly.
The explosion of Russian slap fighting is everywhere. While competitions appear informal, the “sport” is growing in popularity at a rapid pace that could legitimize it even more.
Professional leagues like NFL, NBA and UFC are safe from being dethroned, but slap competitions are growing faster as viral clips take over social media during the coronavirus pandemic. The SlapFIGHT Championship was launched to grow competitions in the United States, and it already boasts tens of thousands of followers on its social media accounts in only a few months time.
I won’t be caught dead on the receiving end of Dumpling’s massive right hand, but this “sport” definitely has a new fan.