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Umar Nurmagomedov of Russia reacts after his submission victory over Brian Kelleher in their featherweight fight during the UFC 272 event on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Umar Nurmagomedov Knows He Is Destined For The Top

Undefeated Bantamweight Brings Familiar Results To A Familiar Name

Amidst the swath of prospects in the bantamweight division, it is difficult for 135-pound hopefuls to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Some look to social media to build their following or choose to get spicy on the mic every chance they get, whereas others opt for the quiet approach, and the top of the division is occupied with fighters who’ve succeeded doing both. What really matters, however, are quality results coupled with regular activity that allows the fighter to stay in the mind of the fans and peers alike.

Through a couple UFC appearances, Umar Nurmagomedov definitely has the results part down. With a 13-0 record, including two wins via finish in the Octagon, Nurmagomedov has long been a prospect to watch. However, inactivity – mostly borne from a difficult 2020 – have stymied the rise of “Khabib’s cousin.” Even though he isn’t the most boisterous personality, Nurmagomedov does understand the importance of promotion when it comes to the fight game as he approaches his third Octagon appearance and second of 2022 at UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot.

Umar Nurmagomedov Submits Kelleher In RD 1 | UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal
Umar Nurmagomedov Submits Kelleher In RD 1 | UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal

“I don’t care about hype or being very popular, but this is what we have (to care about) in MMA,” Nurmagomedov told “How many people watch, how many people know you, the UFC, if you’re a star, they’re going to make you a main event against good guys, good names. This is working like this. I am here, and I don’t care. I really don’t care about popularity. I have to train. I have to win and keep working.”

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot

Nurmagomedov isn’t only working on his already-sharp fighting skills. He has continued to improve his English and pretty confidently handles his media duties without needing to rely on a translator, which only boosts his marketability stateside.

Of course, none of that matters if a fighter doesn’t produce, and Nurmagomedov gets a fun test in fellow 135-riser Nate Maness, who holds a 3-0 UFC record with a pair of finishes. 

Naturally, Nurmagomedov is confident in his own ability to thwart Maness, who most recently dispatched of the highly regarded Tony Gravely in a fun back-and-forth contest. Between the two, Nurmagomedov perhaps has the most impressive performance in the Octagon – a first-round submission of veteran Brian Kelleher at UFC 272.

The “very easy” result even came a little bit to Nurmagomedov’s pleasant surprise, and he hopes he can replicate the outcome on June 25 against Maness.

“I think my kicks are better (than Maness), my clinch is better,” Nurmagomedov said. “I think I’m better than him anywhere, but you have to be (careful). He has good power in his hands. I see how I can beat him, and I’m going to show you guys.”

If there’s been any flaw in Nurmagomedov’s early UFC run, it’s just in the struggle to get a regular run of fights going.

Since joining the roster, Nurmagomedov had four fights fall through. Although frustrating, Nurmagomedov continues to show great composure when he does get his feet onto the canvas and under the bright lights. He is also keen on upping his fighting cadence greatly should everything go to plan on Saturday, and if he can do that, he expects the biggest opportunities to come to fruition.

“This (activity) puts you in the Top 15,” he said. “It’s going to be great if I can win, in one year, four or five fights. This puts you close to the belt. I’m working. I’m preparing.”

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Most intriguingly, he was rumored to match up with fellow undefeated prospect Jack Shore in UFC’s return to London in March. It never came together for whatever reason, and both fighters took care of business that month to keep their unblemished records.

The hypothetical bout is dripping with intrigue both stylistically and in terms of the stakes of the division, and it’s a fight Nurmagomedov believes will happen one day or another.

UFC Fight Island 8: Umar Nurmagomedov Def Morozov By Submission In His Debut
UFC Fight Island 8: Umar Nurmagomedov Def Morozov By Submission In His Debut

“I think if (Jack Shore) keeps winning and I keep winning, we’re going to meet 100 percent,” he said. “His style, and mine, we are the same. Good striking, good kicks, good grappling. It’s going to be a crazy fight. I want this (fight). Maybe the next fight. I don’t care. Any guy, any fighter. I don’t care. I didn’t choose. I’m here for fighting. I’m here to build my career. I’m ready for all names.”

First comes Maness, however, and Nurmagomedov is by no means overlooking him, adding he thinks the fight is “going to be cool.”

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That said, he’s not looking to add any emphasis or make any particular statement with his victory. Whether people want to glean more from it is up to them, but all Nurmagomedov cares about is getting his hand raised. He knows his time is going to come because he is supremely confident in his ability to bust open that window of opportunity and add yet another shark to the pit of contenders at 135.

“First of all, you have to win,” he said. “I don’t care how. Decision, choke, knockout, it doesn’t matter…One day, they’re going to put me (in the Top 15). We’ll see.”

UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot Took Place Live From The UFC APEX In Las Vegas, Nevada on June 25, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass