UFC title returns to Russia, says proud leader – RT Sport News
Russian Dagestan Republic leader Sergey Melikov shared his joy after Islam Makhachev became the latest fighter from the region to be crowned UFC champion on Saturday night.
Makhachev, 31, followed in the footsteps of his friend and mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov by winning the lightweight title in the world’s elite MMA promotion.
Makhachev submitted Brazilian Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC 280, sparking celebrations at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi but also at home in Dagestan – where the hotbed of combat sports welcomed its second king of the UFC.
« Islam Makhachev is a UFC champion! » wrote the ecstatic local chef Melikov on his Telegram channel.
“We were all waiting for this fight and had no doubts that this would be the outcome.
« After the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov, the belt briefly remained with a representative of another country [Charles Oliveira]and today he went home – to Russia!
« Dagestan sportsmen have once again become first in such a prestigious league », Melikov added.
« I know that behind this victory there is a hard training under the strict control of Khabib, the feelings and the faith of the fans and, of course, the efforts of Islam, who gave their all and proved to the whole world that ‘he is now the best lightweight,’ writes the local chief.
“I congratulate Islam, Khabib and all those thanks to whom Dagestanis celebrate this holiday today, because we perceive sports victories as a holiday.
« Blessed be the memory of Abdulmanap Magomedovich Nurmagomedov, who raised a host of Dagestan champions.
“This triumph is also his! The belt is now in good hands. We are proud of you, Islam!
Makhachev submitted former lightweight champion Oliveira via arm-triangle choke in the second round of their fight, ending the Brazilian’s five-year unbeaten streak.
The Makhachkala native also fulfilled a prophecy made by Khabib and his late father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
Both Nurmagomedovs had proclaimed that Makhachev would rise to the top of the UFC lightweight division once Khabib retired.
‘The Eagle’ ended their own unbeaten career in 2020, after Abdulmanap died of complications stemming from a Covid-19 infection earlier that year.
Nurmagomedov Sr had overseen not only his son’s rise, but Makhachev’s as well.
Khabib took over the coaching role from his father after his exit from competition, and Makhachev paid tribute to the Nurmagomedov family in his post-fight speech.
“My belt is for my trainer, for Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. He said train hard and you are going to be champion. Khabib and his father made me,” Makhachev said.
Makhachev is now undefeated in his last 11 fights, having suffered just one loss in 24 professional MMA bouts.
He also becomes Russia’s third modern-era UFC champion. Khabib was first in recent times with his lightweight title success in 2018, while Siberian bantamweight fighter Petr Yan joined those ranks in 2020.
Yan then lost that status following a controversial disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling followed by a split decision loss in their rematch.
Further back, Oleg Taktarov claimed to be the first Russian UFC champion after winning the promotion’s sixth tournament in 1995.
Makhachev’s first title defense was billed as against Australian UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, who stepped into the octagon in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night to underscore his will to fight.
Khabib’s trainer says his protege could be a better striker and raiser than a UFC great