For blended martial arts prospect Muhammad Mokaev, contrasts with UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov have been inevitable.
Both originate from the Russian republic of Dagestan and frequently wear its conventional papakha headpiece. They have comparable battling styles and are both unbeaten.
However Mokaev’s abilities were focused the north west of England instead of the battling hotbed of Dagestan after he was “sneaked in” to the UK as a 12- year-old refugee.
Eight years on, he has Bahraini royalty in his corner and the Mixed Martial Arts world at his feet. A two-time amateur world champ, he will make his professional debut with Brave Battle Federation in Sweden on Saturday.
” I want to be the youngest UFC champion ever,” he informs BBC Sport. “I wish to show kids you can originate from nothing and still be top.
” Khabib’s a great function design to the next generation. But I want to be the first Muhammad Mokaev, not the 2nd Khabib.
” I want to develop my own history.”
Mokaev, who is based in Salford, is celebrating his 20 th birthday on Thursday. Currently he has some story.
‘ My life began once again from no’
Shortly after his mother passed away, “political concerns” required Mokaev and his dad Murad to leave Russia in July 2012.
Mokaev does not remember whatever about their journey but knows they gotten here by ferryboat, concealed inside an automobile. They had no cash and simply a bag of clothing.
After 28 days at a refugee centre in Liverpool, they were designated a home in Wigan. Mokaev, a Muslim who did not speak a word of English, joined a Church of England school.
” My life started again from no,” he says. “There are constantly tests in life; it depends how you’re going to respond. If I had cash when I came to the UK and all my family together, I think I ‘d be a various person now.”
They got by on ₤36 a week in advantages, however after seeing his kid combining with “the incorrect crowd”, Murad stated he would offer him ₤20 if he went to Wigan Youth Zone every day – and it existed he was reestablished to battling.
He had actually tried it in Dagestan however only started enjoying it at Wigan and Leigh Fumbling Club. He was soon winning junior tournaments, becoming British champ in fumbling, and European champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In 2015 he had his very first amateur Mixed Martial Arts battle and, while still a Wigan schoolboy, was followed on Instagram by His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Khalifa – the 5th son of the King of Bahrain.
Sheikh Khalid watched for future Mixed Martial Arts stars. Currently an eager equestrian rider and triathlete, he introduced the KHK Mixed Martial Arts team – initially including Nurmagomedov – in 2015, then his own Mixed Martial Arts promotion – Brave CF – in 2016.
He informed Mokaev to contact him if he needed anything. Mokaev didn’t want to ask, but “whenever I won a tournament I ‘d send him a picture and we ‘d promote hours on FaceTime”.
Mokaev moved to Salford, near to the British fumbling academy. The majority of days he trained there and with MMA coach Dean Garnett in Liverpool. He cleaned mats at the academy and workplaces in Manchester to make ends satisfy.
” I didn’t wish to sit on the couch, getting benefits because I’m a refugee,” he says. “I wished to make my father proud, to do something special, so I trained early morning and night. I needed to grind.”
Ultimately, Mokaev required assistance. In 2018, his travel documents weren’t accepted on arrival in Bahrain for the IMMAF World Championships. After waiting 32 hours to be deported, it was time to call the sheikh.
” I arrived on the holy day so I didn’t wish to interrupt him up until Saturday early morning,” Mokaev says. “Within minutes people arrived to get me through the airport and to a first-class hotel.”
Mokaev, who now represents England but is yet to get a passport, won the junior bantamweight title in front of Nurmagomedov, who later on informed him to “keep it going”.
The 2019 event was likewise in Bahrain however this time Mokaev was stopped at Manchester airport and missed his flight. No matter – the next day the sheikh flew him out from London on his private Boeing to start a four-week training school at his house.
” It’s beautiful,” states Mokaev. “There’s a huge fitness center, with 60 people. They prepare for you, wash your kit, there’s even a Starbucks with totally free beverages.”
Sheikh Khalid brought Mokaev’s spit container as he safeguarded his world title last November, yelling directions from his corner before holding aloft an English flag.
” He kept informing me to battle – that’s my strength,” states Mokaev. “He’s a very humble person, we can speak with each other freely.
” He’s surrounded by individuals that request for things all the time; I wanted to stick out by not asking. Then your relationship becomes different, and now we’re good pals.”
Mokaev had 2 more wins in March before ending his amateur profession with a 23 -0 record to turn professional with Brave. However finding his first opponent has been difficult.
” Guys merely do not wish to fight him,” stated Brave president Mohammed Shahid, prior to Northern Ireland’s Glenn McVeigh concurred to face him on Saturday.
Mokaev says he had more lucrative deals from rival promos Bellator and One, plus UFC interest, however “my relationship with the sheikh is not about money”.
Sheikh Khalid accepts the UFC is “the dream” so has actually concurred a rolling contract, allowing Mokaev to leave Brave when he’s all set.
Time is on his side. Jon Jones became the youngest UFC champion in 2011, when at 23 years and 242 days he declared the light-heavyweight title he still holds today.
Breaking that record is Mokaev’s objective, and to assist him keep in mind, he periodically returns to where his new life started, distributing food at the refugee centre.
” When I see the kids – their clothing, their food – I see myself 8 years back,” he says. “It reminds me to remain motivated, to not stop, to go all the method.”
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