Before every UFC fight, Khabib Nurmagomedov characteristically dons a distinctive piece of headgear - a woollen hat reminiscent of a blonde afro wig -- as he makes his way towards the Octagon. The hat, known as a Papakha in his native Dagestan, represents the history of his people. The wool, equal parts menacing and majestic, encapsulates the laborious heritage of the mountaineers; the height projects the size of a highlander's heart; and the weight illustrates the depths of North Caucasian pride.
For the Caucasians, the papakha hat is a point of pride. It is not to be dropped or lost. Sinister as it may seem, this special hat can traditionally only be removed if the head is removed along with it.
Pride of the Papakha: The Rich Heritage behind Khabib's Headgear
It is also a symbolic reminder of the proud races that are scattered across the mountainous ranges of Russia. Khabib, one of the UFC's top contender in the lightweight division, is as much a representative of his native land as his hat is a product of the Caucasian struggle. Every time he steps into the Octagon, he offers a small, furry reminder of the lesser known parts of the Russian Federation.
Papakha - Heritage
The papakha, a symbol of honour and heritage for the mountaineers, was later introduced as a part of the Russia army uniform. A slight difference in the hat's shape and colour separated the intruders from the insurgents. Though they were removed during the 1917 revolution because many of the Cossack regiments fought against the ruling Bolsheviks, the hat was later reinstated and remains a part of the Russian military uniform.
Despite its popularized use during the Soviet Era amongst the leading generals in the army, the papakha remained a common piece of clothing in the Caucasus region in modern times. Their valuation of tradition and heritage is their main distinction from their historic Russian counterparts. The papahka may no longer be a status symbol or a matchmaking tool, but it is still proudly donned by the descendants of the mountaineers, as a reminder of the great cultures scattered across the cordillera.