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Makhachev will thrive under UFC title fight pressure – Khabib

Nurmagomedov backed his friend and teammate to prevail in Abu Dhabi this weekend

Russian UFC lightweight title contender Islam Makhachev will relish the pressure of the biggest fight of his career against Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi this weekend, according to mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Makhachev is aiming to ascend to the throne once occupied by Khabib as the UFC’s 155lbs ruler – but to do that, he must overcome the formidable challenge of Oliveira.

The Brazilian is the UFC’s most recent lightweight champion, having won the title vacated by the retired Khabib and defending it once – only to be stripped of his status after weighing in heavy before his last trip to the Octagon against Justin Gaethje back in May.

This time around in Abu Dhabi, both Oliveira and Makhachev have made weight for their showdown, meaning Saturday’s main event at the Etihad Arena is official.

Khabib will be in the corner of his fellow Dagestani, fulfilling his role as mentor to the 31-year-old Makhachev.

“This is the biggest fight of his life. I can say what he feels. He feels pressure, he’s nervous, he’s very excited. He feels his dream is very close to becoming true,” Khabib told Red Corner MMA as he reflected on his own championship experience – which included title defenses against Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi.   

“All the team are here to help him, to push him, to share our advice and give him knowledge and good energy, to take the belt and make one more history.”

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Khabib said that the crowd in the UAE would be firmly behind Makhachev as he seeks to become Russia’s latest UFC champion.  

“I feel like I come back home. Abu Dhabi is like my second home,” said the UFC Hall of Famer.

“I fought here a couple of times… it’s an amazing feeling when you walk out to the cage, big crowd, 16,000-17,000 at the Etihad Arena. I know 3,000-4,000 people from Dagestan already came here.

“I think Islam will feel like he’s walking out at his home.”

Makhachev grew up under the tutelage of Khabib’s late father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, with a bond forming between them and other members of a tight-knit team.

Khabib said he knew Makhachev well enough to understand that he would not shrink amid the pressure of the biggest night in his 23-fight career.

“All the world is going to watch this fight. I know some people get energy from the crowd, some people get nervous,” said Khabib.

“I know Islam, Islam gets energy. I’ve cornered him all his life, I know the way he feels, and Islam likes pressure. When pressure comes, his style is to shine.

Makhachev has set up his title shot with a 10-fight winning streak and has tasted defeat just once in his career – back in 2015.

Oliveira, 33, is undefeated in 11 contests as part of a run which has seen him emerge from a contender to a bona fide candidate for one of the greatest fighters the UFC’s 155lbs fold has ever seen.

‘Do Bronx’ boasts more experience than Makhachev, having fought 42 times professionally – winning 33 of those contests.

The Sao Paulo native also holds a number of UFC records, including most submission wins in promotion history.    

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When asked what his advice would be to Makhachev prior to the fight, Khabib kept it short and simple.

“Just be yourself. Don’t think about anything, just focus on your opponent,” said the undefeated MMA icon.

“When the cage closes, you have to deal with Charles Oliveira. Not people who are watching, just Charles Oliveira.

“Think about yourself, protect yourself. The most important thing is first defense, then attack.

“It’s going to be an MMA fight, not a wrestling or grappling match. Oliveira can grapple, he can strike. This guy has very big experience, so many fights in the UFC.

“Of course, we’re not underestimating this guy, we respect everything he has done already in the UFC.

“But we’re a team, we’re brothers, and we believe in Islam.”  

https://ift.tt/qUCFz10 21, 2022 at 07:24PM
from RT – Daily news

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