By Jake Smith
One of IMMAFs finest exports, Muhammad Mokaev, has credited his IMMAF experience with giving him the motivation to achieve his mixed martial arts dream, following the announcement he has signed with the UFC.
In his first interview since signing with the promotion, with Ariel Helwani on MMAFighting’s The MMA Hour, Mokaev discussed the fact he has become the youngest athlete on the UFC roster but he believes his vast experience more than makes up for his age.
“My last opponent was 29 years old, so it’s nothing to do with age I believe. People say you have not got your ‘man strength’ but my last opponent was 29 years old with 15 professional fights and I finished him in the second round; he was a very good name also, Blaine O’Driscoll who fights out of SBG Ireland.
“My opponent before that, Abdul Hussain, was an IMMAF Senior champion, 10-0 as an amateur & 7-1 as a professional, and I dominated him also.
“Strength wise, I spar with featherweight guys who are in big organisations and I still take them down and I still keep them down.”
Helwani then went on to ask Mokaev about his extensive amateur background and if he believes up and coming amateurs should take a similar path to him. The flyweight reflected on his time competing with IMMAF fondly. He said:
“100%, I really want to talk about this. There are a lot of fighters in the UK who fight on UK MMA shows. They then get too excited too much, as they are selling tickets and are on a show, but sportwise, IMMAF is the platform where athletes should compete, it’s four, five fights a week. It’s not easy, these are elite fighters, I believe I had some tougher fights in amateur than in professional. My previous opponent had 15 professional fights, I submitted him in the second round. Whereas In amateur a lot of my fights went the distance.
“This (IMMAF) is a huge platform, you go to a different country, you get your medical check, you get anti-doping control. If you get knocked down in the fight but still win, the next day you cannot compete; they are taking care of athletes’ health. There’s the shin pads, no blood, no cuts and team wise, you get ready mentally for the professional leagues. They have the World Championships in Abu Dhabi in January and I am going to be there!”
Mokaev’s first IMMAF gold came at the 2018 world championships, an achievement which he said only added to his self belief.
“I was 18, I hadn’t even become World Champion, I hadn’t even competed in IMMAF at that time but when I competed in IMMAF at the end of 2018, that gave me a huge push of motivation and I knew I could do it.”
Mokaev’s relentless work ethic and drive to succeed, alongside his monumental skillset, were major factors in guiding him to so many gold medals. This drive appears to continue into the UFC as he looks to make a bit of history in the process.
“I said in an interview, you are going to see me at the end of this year (2021) in the UFC and you know my dream is to become the youngest UFC Flyweight champion. I have to go for it.”