Khabib Certain That Protege Izagakhmaev Will Finish Nakashima

Saygid Izagakhmaev signs with ONE Championship

MMA icon Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov believes his protege, Saygid Izagakhmaev, is going to make a statement in his promotional debut at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS.

The legendary Russian star has mentored Izagakhmaev on his way to the top of the mixed martial arts world, and he knows how much the lightweight mixed martial arts bout with James Nakashima on Friday, 14 January, means to his compatriot.

He recognizes his young charge’s skill set and has seen firsthand just how motivated Izagakhmaev is to deliver an impressive performance inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

“We’re all waiting for his debut. I know Saygid has stayed in the gym every day and night, and he’s excited about his debut in ONE Championship,” Nurmagomedov says.

“He’s very hungry. That is very important in this game. You have to be hungry. There are a lot of reasons why Saygid is a very dangerous opponent.”

The Russian grappler, who is currently sitting on a 19-2 slate, is one of the most anticipated ONE Championship signings in recent memory – and some of that comes from how highly Nurmagomedov rates him.

Izagakhmaev started training under “The Eagle’s” late father – Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov – 15 years ago, so he has many similar traits to the iconic World Champion. That said, Nurmagomedov makes it clear that the 27-year-old star is not a carbon copy and will bring his own unique style to the Circle.

“He began training with my father when he was very young, and I know him very, very well. He was always focused and a very hard trainer,” he says.

“We have a similar fighting style, like grappling, wrestling, clinching, how we move, how we use our body and our hips on the ground, but he’s a little bit taller than me.

“Saygid’s style is very dangerous because he’s tall. He has a long reach with his legs and arms. He has very good elbows, good clinch, and, of course, a very good on-ground game – like all of the guys from our school.”

Perhaps the most important thing that the 29-0 veteran has seen from Izagakhmaev is his rate of improvement over the past 12 months, something he believes will be further accelerated by him competing in ONE.

“When I watch how he was one year ago, right now, he’s completely different. He’s only 27 years old, and he keeps learning,” he says. 

“I truly believe, with ONE Championship, he’s going to improve a lot, and the next couple of years are going to be very interesting for him.”

Still, “The Eagle” is wise enough to know that they can’t take anything for granted, especially against a tough opponent like Nakashima.

The former ONE Welterweight World Title contender is a strong wrestler with ever-improving striking, and he has the added benefit of more elite-level experience.

Nurmagomedov knows that it will be a tough battle for Izagakhmaev, but he will be in his corner on the night to try to guide his friend to victory.

“I’m going to be with him in Singapore. I think this is good for him because I have so much knowledge that I can share with him. I can give him good energy. I can motivate him,” he says.

“Nakashima is a very good fighter. I watched a couple of his fights. He has good wrestling, but I don’t think Nakashima can control [Saygid] in wrestling.

“We have a good plan. We’re going to defend his wrestling, and we’re going to give him some damage, and I really believe Saygid can finish him.”

If Izagakhmaev can take out an experienced competitor like Nakashima, “The Eagle” knows it’ll make a big statement and send a warning to the rest of the lightweight division.

However, he doesn’t want to look too far ahead. The main thing is for his protege to score his debut win.

“We don’t underestimate Nakashima and talk about what’s next for him [Izagakhmaev]. Let’s finish with him, and then we can talk,” Nurmagomedov says.

“Saygid has [21] fights in his career, and he will be ready for anyone.”

Read more: 5 Fast Facts About Russian MMA Star Saygid Izagakhmaev

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