Undefeated UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is looking to defeat fellow contender Thiago Tavares tonight in São Paolo, Brazil. MMAFrenzy recently spoke to the Dagestani fighter about a variety of topics, including tonight’s fight with Tavares, his future in the division, and the emergence of prospects from his homeland of Dagestan.
Home field advantage and jitters on the big stage are an oft discussed topics in most sports. At UFC on FX 7, Nurmagomedov will not only be going into enemy territory this weekend when he faces Tavares, but he’ll be doing so on his first ever main card appearance. Neither factor has Nurgomedov concerned, as he told MMAFrenzy, “I really don’t care about the crowd I am here to fight and win.” He continued, “I am focused on the opponent.”
The AKA product’s opponent, Tavares, is significant challenge for the talented young fighter. The Dagestani fighter believes this fight comes down to whomever is most mentally ready for this fight, and he believes it is him. “I think mentally I will be better prepared [tonight]. We both did the physical part.”
I asked Nurmagomedov where he believes a win over a very tough opponent like Tavares would put him in the division. He replied that a victory would net him a shot at one of the top ten lightweights in the promotion. Since he currently stands at 18-0, it would be hard to argue with that train of thought.
Despite his lofty record in MMA, Nurmagomedov has not allowed himself to grow content. He credits his move to AKA for his growth as a fighter, stating, “I have sparred a lot more and also gained skills in clinch against cage. Being part of AKA has given me a lot.”
It is also interesting to note that Nurmagomedov hails from the Russian Republic of Dagestan. The republic, which resides in the Northern Caucasus Mountains and is bordered by the Caspian Sea, has seen a recent boon in talented prospects, like Rustam Khabilov, Magomed Saadulaev, and Shahbulat Shamhalaev – all of them gaining traction in the sport (former prospect Rasul Mirzaev hailed from the region as well). I asked the Dagestani fighter about the region’s talent. He told MMAFrenzy the region has a great deal of raw talent just waiting to be mined. Said Nurmagomedov, “Dagestan has a lot of fighters who need to be developed into big league [talent]. In the upcoming years there will be a lot of Dagestani fighters who can [compete against] US, Brazilian, and Canadian fighters.”
Finally, Nurmegomedov has always been a bit memorable for his choice of weigh-in attire. What appeared to be a blonde wig at a glance. Nurmagomedov was quick to point out that it is not a wig but a traditional Dagestani hat. “Its a national Dagestani hat. I will be wearing it every fight and every show I make an appearance.” At yesterday’s weigh-ins the AKA fighter embraced the role of the villain by wearing a shirt with the statement, “If SAMBO was easy it would be called Jiu Jitsu”.
Be sure to tune in tonight as Nurmagomedov looks to kick off his 2013 campaign with a victory over Tavares on the FX main card.
Photo via UFC.com