Please pry your eyes away from the brightly lit tent displaying the name “Paddy Pimblett” and walk a bit off the midway. That’s where you’ll find the small, poorly lit placard for Muhammad Mokaev, who is the fighter to watch at UFC London.
Mokaev opens the UFC London card on Saturday. The 21-year-old signed on with the UFC in November on the strength of a 6-0 (one no contest) pro run following a 23-0 amateur career in MMA.
Mokaev was born in Dagestan, but he’s lived in England since he and his father fled Russia with little more than the clothes on their backs when he was 12. Since he began training, Mokaev has built up quite the resume. The debuting UFC flyweight is a two-time IMMAF World Champion, two-time IMMAF European Champion, six-time British Wrestling Champion, two-time ADCC British Open gold medallist and a European Brazillian jiu-jitsu Champion.
Mokaev, who has developed into a solid all-around MMA fighter thanks to his extensive amount of experience in the pro and amateur ranks, faces Cody Durden in the curtain jerker of the UFC London fight card.
There is some bad blood in this fight. If you recall, Durden used a racist trope in his post-fight interview after his win over Aoriqileng in November. That post-fight comment caught the attention of Mokaev and drew his ire.
“I was watching this fight with my manager, and said, ‘Let’s get this guy next’ while the fight was on,” Mokaev told the UFC. “He made his comments after interview, and I’m like, ‘Let’s destroy this guy!’
The Durden matchup also comes with a bit of a bonus according to Mokaev, “I like to fight somebody old, experienced in the UFC — this is his fourth fight in the UFC — instead of fighting some debuting guys or somebody on a losing streak to prove the point straight away and climb up the rankings.”
Mokaev is extremely confident and exceptionally aggressive in his approach, which could work for or against him opposite fighter with more UFC and pro experience than he has.
Despite his lack of pro fights, Mokaev — of course — has already been compared to another undefeated fighter from Dagestan, but Mokaev doesn’t want to be defined by the accomplishments of another fighter, even if that fighter is former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I want to be the first Muhammad Mokaev, not the second Khabib.”
Mokaev takes his first big step toward that goal on Saturday when he opens the UFC London fight card against Durden.
UFC London takes place at 02 Arena. The entire fight card streams on ESPN+.
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