Zabit Magomedsharipov joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in 2017, going a perfect 5-0 while earning three $50,000 post-fight performance bonuses. A spectacular striker and flamboyant grappler, the 28-year-old has emerged as a rising star in the featherweight division. Magomedsharipov will put a 13-fight winning streak on the line when he meets Calvin Kattar in the UFC Fight Night 163 main event on Saturday in Moscow.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Magomedsharipov discusses his forthcoming showdown with Kattar, his place in the UFC’s featherweight pecking order and his plans for the future.
Sherdog.com: What do you know about Kattar?
Magomedsharipov: I hadn’t heard too much about him before I found out he was my next opponent. Now, having watched his fights, I can tell you he’s a good fighter with power and good wrestling skills. The fight with him will definitely not be easy. I started preparing for it at home in Makhachkala. At the end of August, me and my trainer, Mansur Uchakayev, flew to New Jersey to work with my American trainers: Mark Henry, Ricardo Almeida and Nick Catone. About a month ago, I flew from the United States to Moscow, where I continued my intense preparation for this fight. Competing at an event in Russia means a lot to me, especially when it’s the main event. It will be the first time I’ve fought in my native country with the UFC, and I really want to please the fans.
Sherdog.com: Seeing as though you are now fifth in the UFC’s featherweight rankings, when do you expect to fight for the title?
Magomedsharipov: The main thing for me is to win, and then, the title fight will be just around the corner. I really hope I can count another victory in Moscow.
Sherdog.com: What was the most difficult part about getting into the UFC?
Magomedsharipov: Waiting to sign the contract. After defending the title in the Absolute Championship Berkut, I trained for almost half a year while living in America, but the UFC was in no hurry to sign a contract with my manager, Ali Abdelaziz. I needed to show them who I was and demonstrate all my abilities. I did not know what was ahead of me.
Sherdog.com: Which of your five UFC fights was the most difficult?
Magomedsharipov: I can’t say that this or that fight was super difficult. Probably the most energy-consuming battle was the battle against Kyle Bochniak, mainly because of my injured arm.
Sherdog.com: Are there any fighters in the featherweight division against whom you would take a more cautious approach?
Magomedsharipov: Yes, I try to be exciting because I like to fight that way, and I know the fans love it. However, I will never recklessly risk turning fights into a show -- it’s not a priority for me -- and I don’t want to perform this move or that move just to show off my skill. Everything should be thought out. Otherwise, it’s an extra waste of energy, and any serious opponent can make you pay for it.
Sherdog.com: Do you plan to move to heavier weights?
Magomedsharipov: I feel comfortable enough where I’m at now. To move to the lightweight division, my training weight must be stable at 80-82 kilograms, and I’m very far from that. If my weight grows, then of course I will not torture myself. After all, weight cutting is very difficult.
Sherdog.com: What are your strengths as a fighter?
Magomedsharipov: It’s difficult to evaluate yourself. I know that my height and length can cause problems for opponents. I’ll leave it to others to say the rest.
Sherdog.com: Do you communicate with other Russian UFC fighters, like Khabib Nurmagomedov?
Magomedsharipov: I don’t see Khabib too often. He has his own tight training schedule and events, and I have mine. If we meet somewhere, then of course we communicate. That’s true with with Khabib and with other Russian fighters. Basically, we keep in touch through social networks.
Sherdog.com: After his fight with Conor McGregor, Nurmagomedov started a skirmish that drew mixed reactions. How did you feel about it?
Magomedsharipov: Conor allowed himself to say too much about Khabib and his family before the fight. Trash talk is trash talk, but everything has its limits. Khabib’s reaction was clear to me. No one knows how people who condemned him would have reacted in his place, with so much dirt being poured on them.
Sherdog.com: What are your plans for the near future?
Magomedsharipov: I would like to become UFC champion as soon as possible. I don’t want to fight until I’m old, and I don’t want to devote my whole life to fighting. I’m almost 29 years old, and in lighter weights, the older you are the more difficult it is to compete with younger opponents. The sooner I reach my goal the better.