By Frank Bonada
Since the inception of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) in 2014, athletes who have captured World Championships gold medals have consistently gone on to achieve massive success in the professional ranks of MMA.
Ahead of the 2023 IMMAF World Championships, which will officially take place in Tirana, Albania, between 20 – 25 November, we will be looking at some of the greatest World Champions to have ever competed under the IMMAF banner, and how their careers have since progressed.
First up is Muhammad Mokaev. A talented wrestler, Mokaev would make his IMMAF debut in 2018, with a host of impressive accolades already tied to his name. It did not take long for him to make his mark on the IMMAF stage, claiming gold at the 2018 IMMAF Junior World Championships, defeating legitimate opposition such as Reo Yamaguchi and Ismael Zamora in the process. Yamaguchi in particular would play a key part in Mokaev’s amateur MMA career, as the two elite prospects locked horns on multiple occasions during their time competing for IMMAF.
After taking a short break to capture another win on the UK amateur MMA scene, Muhammad Mokaev returned to participate in the 2019 IMMAF European Open Championships. After scoring a stunning first-round TKO victory over Ireland’s Abanoub Fares, Mokaev went on to defeat Batir Sharukhanov to claim a spot in the finals. Here, he once again found himself facing Reo Yamaguchi, who himself was on an impressive run of form, having only lost once in his last seven bouts.
However, despite Yamaguchi’s constant improvement, he would be unable to overcome his rival. In a competitive back-and-forth bout, it was Mokaev who claimed the unanimous decision victory and an IMMAF European Championships gold medal.
After another two bouts on the European amateur circuit, Mokaev would compete in the 2019 IMMAF World Championships. By this point, the surging undefeated athlete had eyes from all across the globe watching him, drawn in by the prospect of seeing just how far he could go. Whilst some may have crumbled under the pressure, Mokaev thrived, tearing through the opposition until he made it to the finals, where he was matched up with Reo Yamaguchi for a third time. History would repeat itself, and Mokaev once again walked away with a win and a junior gold medal.
The following year, Muhammad Mokaev would claim his fourth and final IMMAF gold medal, this time at the 2020 IMMAF Oceania Open Championships. With an amateur record of 23-0 and his legacy as an all-time IMMAF great solidified, Mokaev made the move to pro MMA.
He would sign with BRAVE CF, a top mixed martial arts promotion based in Bahrain. Mokaev’s transition to pro MMA could not have gone better. He ran through the competition, claiming victory over progressively higher-level opponents, culminating in a bout with the highly touted Blaine O’Driscoll.
Despite O’Driscoll being billed as Mokaev’s toughest test to date, the two-time IMMAF World champion would claim victory in empathic fashion, via second-round submission. Now holding a 6-0 pro record, as well as a 23-0 amateur record and four IMMAF gold medals, including two from the World Championships, the UFC deemed it the right time to offer Muhammad Mokaev a contract.
As debuts go, it doesn’t get much better than Mokaev’s first showing under the UFC banner. Featuring on the opening bout of UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall, which would later become considered by many to be one of the greatest UFC events to be held on UK soil, Mokaev took on American wrestler Cody Durden. 58 seconds was all it took for Mokaev to land a flying knee, before locking up a slick modified guillotine submission.
Since then, Mokaev’s undefeated run has continued in the world’s premier professional mixed martial arts organisation. Consecutive victories over Charles Johnson, Malcolm Gordon and Jafel Filho have seen him enter the UFC flyweight rankings at No.11.
Muhammad Mokaev now prepares to take on his steepest step up in competition to date, which comes in the form of No.10 ranked flyweight Tim Elliott. The bout takes place on UFC 294: Makhachev vs. Oliveira 2, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A win here will see Mokaev enter the top 10 of the division and move within touching distance of title contention.
Despite only eleven fights into his professional career, Mokaev conducts himself with a level of professionalism and maturity, typically only seen in veteran fighters with years of experience to their names. This is in no small part due to Mokaev’s time with IMMAF, competing in multiple high-level amateur bouts, all across the planet. His continued success at the very pinnacle of professional MMA is testimony to the monumental impact that competing on the IMMAF stage can have on the next generation of MMA.