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Muhammad Mokaev of Russia poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
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Muhammad Mokaev Will Give Everything To Become Champ

After Battling Adversity His Last Time Out, Muhammad Mokaev Hopes To Get A Shot At The Flyweight Elite With A Definitive Win At UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2

Everything was going about as planned in Muhammad Mokaev’s fourth UFC bout. For the better part of two-and-a-half rounds, Mokaev dominated Jafel Filho with a mix of grappling pressure and pace. Things can turn around in a blink, however, and Mokaev found himself in as much trouble as he’s faced in his entire MMA career when Filho spun for a kneebar. For about 40 seconds, Mokaev’s knee looked like a longbow as Filho desperately hyperextended the 22-year-old’s left wheel. Through grit and general stubbornness, Mokaev fought out of the position and got his own submission win a couple minutes later. 

It was a wince-worthy way to win, but the damage was relatively mild for as brutal as it looked. In a social media post, Mokaev said he suffered a “partial MCL tear” and could return to training in a handful of weeks. While the injury put a damper on Mokaev’s momentum, it wasn’t as much of a speed bump as a loss, and it also kept him on track as the 23-year-old remains in pursuit of Jon Jones’ record as the youngest champion in UFC history.

Order UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2

“I showed how much I want to be a champion,” Mokaev told UFC.com. “I want to be fighting for the title and I am going to fight all the way to my last breath.”

Muhammad Mokaev of Russia kicks Jafel Filho of Brazil in a flyweight fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Muhammad Mokaev of Russia kicks Jafel Filho of Brazil in a flyweight fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

That deadline is rapidly approaching. Mokaev has until March before he eclipses the age “Bones” was when he took the belt off Mauricio Rua, but the flyweight division remains wide open after Alexandre Pantoja bested Brandon Moreno at UFC 290.

Mokaev isn’t caught up in all of that too much – it’s just a nice accolade he would like to add to his already decorated resume. For the time being, he is focused on his next opponent: Tim Elliott. The UFC veteran is nearly 14 years Mokaev’s senior and fought more than 10 times by the time Mokaev made his pro MMA debut in August 2020. 

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He is also in the best form of his career, having won four of his last five fights, and is keen on maintaining that momentum himself. A win over Mokaev would mean Elliott’s longest winning streak in the Octagon, and he is Mokaev’s trickiest opponent to date.  

Muhammad Mokaev's Quick Round 1 Submission | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall
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Muhammad Mokaev's Quick Round 1 Submission | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall
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“(Elliott) is a great opponent,” Mokaev said. “He is very awkward. For me, it's a perfect style because I don't like guys just standing and waiting for one punch, or they’re just going to shoot for a takedown. He is interesting to dance with. He's a great dancing partner, but I'm dangerous for him because I'm very young and a very good wrestler.”

MORE UFC 294: Makhachev Fight Week Interview | Fight By Fight Preview | UFC 294 Embedded

It’s an ideal test for Mokaev at this stage of his career. Elliott’s awkwardness can throw the most skilled of fighters off their game just long enough for the 36-year-old to get ahead, but Mokaev also believes he is awkward in his own right. 

If there is a pathway to victory, it’ll be catching Elliott in a scramble and submitting him as five previous foes have. On top of that, Mokaev will enjoy a healthy boost from the fans in Ethiad Arena. Mokaev says he has a good crowd wherever he travels, but fighting in Abu Dhabi does feel like “fighting at home.”

Muhammad Mokaev of England celebrates his victory over Cody Durden in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena
Muhammad Mokaev of England celebrates his victory over Cody Durden in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

When Mokaev fought in Abu Dhabi last year at UFC 280, he secured a three-round armbar on Malcolm Gordon. It’s a testament to a maturity that belies his age that he is able to stay the course and remain focused deep into fights while still searching for the finish. For as much as everyone loves watching a fighter who looks like they’re shot out of a cannon, one could argue Mokaev is as contender-ready as any young fighter to come through the ranks in recent years. That patience also translates to how he is looking at his path to the title. 

View Mokaev's Athlete Profile

Yes, he has an inside track and a lot of hype, but he understands how stacked the flyweight title picture is at present, and a win over Elliott might not mean a shot at gold next. That said, he still wants in on the flyweight elite. 

“I want to grab that microphone and call out everyone in the top five,” he said of his plans after the bout. 

“The Punisher” is coming. It’s already clear that he’s ready to give up a leg to make his dreams come true. What is so fascinating is seeing what comes next.

Order UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2

UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2 took place live from Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE on October 21, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!