Muhammad Mokaev is ready to claim the headlines on the biggest show of the year at UFC 294 having gone from Dagestan to Wigan and back.
The flyweight contender is back in action against Tim Elliott at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Saturday (October 21) on the undercard of Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski's rematch for the lightweight title.
Mokaev fights out of Manchester and Wigan by way of Dagestan having moved to the UK with his father as a refugee following the tragic passing of his mother when he was just 12 years old.
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Now 23 with a perfect professional record of 10-0 including four UFC bouts, the #11 ranked star is looking to return with style after needing surgery following his win over Jafel Filho in March.
That bout went viral because of his refusal to tap from a deep kneebar in which he heard cracking in his knee – and ended up having surgery on his shoulder.
Speaking to Daily Star Sport, Mokaev said of his return to the Octagon: "I was ready to fight earlier this year but nothing came about so I decided I'm gonna fight in Abu Dhabi.
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"It's a long break for me but some people in division don't fight for two or three years."
Mokaev has spent seven months on the sidelines between his third and fourth UFC bouts, having fought three times in eight months in 2022.
As part of his training camp, Mokaev headed back to his roots to further his development, he added: "I've been improving since the start of April just training twice a day. I went to the mountains of Dagestan working on my wrestling with the national team. I'm ready."
Not only representing the people of Dagestan, Mokaev wants to be a role model for refugees and the people of Wigan, recognising his place in the global spotlight.
He added: "I have amazing support. I always try to be a good example for the young generation and show them the path."
Mokaev came the closest he ever has to defeat before his third-round submission of Filho at UFC 286, having refused to tap to avoid creating a habit.
He said: "Sometimes you have to handle the pain in the short term for the long term. I think mentality wise, once you tap, it becomes a habit and any situation where you see the the deep water after that I think you basically start giving up."
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Veteran Tim Elliot is the next challenge facing Mokaev, with Elliott winning 19 of his 32 pro bouts and four of his last five in the UFC.
Mokaev concluded: "However, the fight goes, I will finish him. He's a very suitable opponent for me. He doesn't have a game plan."
The preliminary card of UFC 294 takes place from 5pm on TNT Sports in the UK, with the main card getting underway at 7pm.
As well as Makhachev vs featherweight king Volkanovski, former welterweights Kamaru Usman and Khamzat Chimaev go head-to-head at middleweight, with Javid Basharat and Nathaniel Wood also in action.
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