Marat “Cobra” Gafurov is a man with a plan.
Last Friday, 20 April, the Dagestani kickstarted his journey back to the ONE Featherweight World Championship by quickly defeating surging contender Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in Manila, Philippines.
Gafurov returned to mixed martial arts competition for the first time since losing the belt to Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen eight months ago, and he did not lose a step. In fact, he looked better than ever.
“I did not have any nerves at all,” the 33-year-old says. “I was focused, and felt in top shape — both physically and mentally. I had only one task on my mind, and that was to win.”
He accomplished that task relatively quick.
Just seconds into the featherweight contest, Urrutia whipped a kick at the Dagestani’s lead leg. Gafurov absorbed the blow, charged forward, caught his rival’s second low kick, and promptly brought him down to the canvas.
After punching “The Honey Badger” from inside the full guard, Gafurov smoothly slid into half guard, and started locking up an arm-triangle choke. The Dagestani rotated counterclockwise to tighten the hold, and put Urrutia asleep halfway through the opening stanza.
With the win, “Cobra” extended his record for the most submissions in ONE history to seven.
“My general idea was to move forward and put a lot of pressure on him. That is exactly what I did, and my plan worked,” he says.
“There were no surprises in terms of his technique, but there was a little accident. At the very start of the fight, he hit me somewhere around my kneecap. I think my nerve got damaged, or something like that. You can see in the video that I use only one leg after that, because my other leg just went numb. In a way, it was a surprise, but it did not stop me.”
Now at 16-1, and with a victory over a rising talent such as Urrutia, Gafurov is firmly back in the title picture, which is exactly where he wants to be.
He will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming ONE Featherweight World Title match between reigning champion Nguyen and Singaporean challenger Christian “The Warrior” Lee at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS on Friday, 18 May.
The Dagestani plans to take aim at whoever leaves the Singapore Indoor Stadium with the gold, but he does have a preference on who he challenges for the title.
“I know Christian Lee is fighting Martin Nguyen [in Singapore], so hopefully, I will fight the winner of this bout,” Gafurov states.
“I would love a rematch with Martin, to show that his victory was just down to luck. But if Christian proves that he is stronger, I am happy to face him.”
However, Gafurov is also interested in a possible lightweight match-up. He says: “If my next fight is not going to be for a belt, then I would like to try and play at 77kg.”
Regardless, “Cobra” does not plan to return to the cage, or the five-rope ring, for at least a few months. He will take some time away from the gym to celebrate the month of Ramadan, and then commence training activities by mid-June in anticipation of his next bout.
“I am always ready to fight,” he explains. “But now, with the holy month of Ramadan fast approaching, I will have to take a month off training. So, taking that into account, I can say that I will be ready to fight again in August 2018.”