‘We are in war with Khabib’s team’. Tatars want to stop Dagestan’s hegemony in UFC

The first Tatar man in the UFC intends to stop the hegemony of Khabib’s team

‘We are in war with Khabib’s team’. Tatars want to stop Dagestan’s hegemony in UFC
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Rinat Fakhretdinov’s win over American-born Eric Spicely opened the way for the Tatar wrestler to the UFC. A contract for four bouts in the world’s key fighting league seems to be a catalyst for a huge process designed to develop mixed martial arts in Tatarstan. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report how Tatars intend to fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s team and what’s already been done to promote this sport in the republic.

Fakhretdinov accidentally got to the UFC but deserved his contract

A historic event took place in the middle of January for Tatarstan. A Tatar wrestler got a contract from the most prestigious organisation in the world of wrestling for the first time in the history of mixed martial arts. Rinat Fakhretdinov from Mordovia became the pioneer. The wrestler who has Tatar roots had been competing in lower leagues for 10 years and finally got promoted. A victory over American Eric Spicely enchanted UFC President Dana White and he decided to invite Rinat.

According to the version of the wrestler himself and his coach Marat Kapkayev, everything happened unexpectedly. They noted at the latest press conference in Kazan on 2 February they weren’t warned about the possible invitation to the world’s best wrestling league. And when Fakhretdinov was heading to the exit from the venue, they were asked to stay and go to the meeting room where they were given a contract.

“We didn’t plan to get to the UFC upon arrival from Abu Dhabi (Editor’s Note: the bout against Spicely took place there). We fought, packed our things, went to the bus. We were stopped and told they wanted to talk with us. In the end, we got a contract directly from the president of the organisation,” Kapkayev said.

Some data suggests that White arrived to have a look not at Fakhretdinov but his rival. Spicely is a renowned wrestler who has had the time to make a name for himself but he fell out of the league because of losses. The bout with Rinat was to be an impetus for the American to come back. The Tatar man ruined White’s game and knocked the honourable veteran out with an impressible blow. The UFC president was so impressed that offered Fakhretdinov a contract immediately.

Though it will be wrong to claim that Fakhretdinov didn’t deserve the contract with the UFC. Rinat’s record is 18 victories with one defeat. Such a result would anyway have to be noticed at the top.

A desire to fight with Cerrone and be remembered for his kicking technique

The Tatar wrestler got a basic agreement from the league that includes four fights. The next is to be this March in Las Vegas. But Fakhretdinov doesn’t have an American visa, and due to coronavirus restrictions he will likely have to postpone his debut in the UFC. In any case, the league itself will choose a rival. Rinat himself would like to meet Donald Cerrone.

“I don’t know, is Cerrone in the top 10 now? He can be the top 15. This is the person I would like to fight with. He is a kind of legend, he has a good name, he is a bright kicker, and it would be interesting to meet him. The UFC in general is a strong league, it can’t have weak opponents by default,” Fakhretdinov claimed at a press conference in Kazan.

Fakhretdinov would like to meet Donald Cerrone. Photo: instagram.com/gladiator_fahretdinov

The Tatar wrestler got used to counting on his kicking technique. Though he hired a wrestling coach, he doesn’t intend to refuse his tactics.

“I have started to like fighting recently. We have had a very good wrestling coach Yusuf Sadullayev. He is called a master. He is very strong on the ground. But now, after the knockout, I see that fans emotionally like it more, though it is really tough to use a strangling approach against a top fighter. You don’t wait for a knockout, you miss it and that’s it. The UFC likes bright bouts, this is why we will try to be remembered. This is why we will focus on the kick technique, the beauty,” Fakhretdinov said.

At the same time, Rinat will compete in the 77 kg category. In lower leagues, he has competed in the 84 kg category. But according to the UFC’s regulation, it is necessary to have other physiological characteristics in this category.

Tatars are set to stop the hegemony of Khabib’s team

The press conference itself was dedicated to the development and promotion of professional mixed martial arts tournaments in Tatarstan. Of course, the theme is just a reason to honour the first Tatar wrestler in the UFC because republican authorities couldn’t ignore such a landmark. But the event turned out to be unexpectedly beneficial to understand further prospects of this sport in the region.

Khalil Shaykhutdinov added information about the construction of two wrestling venues at once in Laishevo and Naberezhnye Chelny. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Judging by the mood of the speakers who gathered, Tatarstan is set to seriously grab its chance and start to promote the republic in this area. Kazan plans to host a World Jiu-Jitsu Championship stage this year already, applications were also sent to hold the European MMA Championship and a stage of UAE Warriors where Fakhretdinov managed to join the group of elite fighters in January. First Vice Minister of Sport of Tatarstan Khalil Shaykhutdinov added information about the construction of two wrestling venues at once in Laishevo and Naberezhnye Chelny.

But Marat Kapkayev said the most interesting thing. Fakhretdinov’s coach who is the founder and director of the Tatar Sports Union claimed that Tatarstan athletes were determined to impose competition on Dagestan. According to him due to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s authority, mostly Caucasian fighters are invited to the UFC, and it becomes harder for athletes from other Russian regions to get to the major fighting league. After Fakhretdinov’s successful performance, Kapkayev began to receive invitations for other Tatarstan fighters too.

“Lads from the Tatar Sports Union know how hard it is to receive an invitation from serious tournaments. Unfortunately, the total dominance of Khabib’s team is felt everywhere, including in the UFC. I told the organisation I had another guy and I would show what he was able to do. After Rinat showed off himself, their proposals began to shower. They asked if we had other fighters of this kind in Tatarstan and I said we had stronger ones, just give us an option,” Kapkayev said.

Marat Kapkayev guaranteed that the number of Tatarstan fighters in serious mixed martial arts tournaments would increase soon. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

He also guaranteed that the number of Tatarstan fighters in serious mixed martial arts tournaments would increase soon. Kapkayev promised to do his best to impose competition on Nurmagomedov’s team.

“As a manager, as a promoter, I will do my best to have as many compatriots as possible in the UFC. Here we are in good war against the Khabib team. And I want to have a lot of lads, to have more names, not only Rinat,” Kapkayev said.

Fakhretdinov and Kapkayev have been moving to their goal for nearly 10 years. They don’t plan to stop but be on track. And if only individuals and their friends used to support them, now they will receive support at the top. So Khabib and his team can already start being afraid to lose their hegemony in the UFC.

By Zulfat Shafigullin
Tatarstan