Saygid Izagakhmaev is the latest in a string of impressive Dagestani martial artists to enter ONE, and his goal is to continue the dominant streak that his countrymen started.
Izagakhmaev believes that athletes from the renowned Caucasus region of Russia are bred with an ingrained knowledge of combat sports. He wants to showcase that – and put the lightweight division on notice – when he faces the stalwart American.
“Dagestan fighters are different because we have a habit of fighting, wrestling, and competing – competitive spirit is inherent to us,” he says.
“I’ve already watched all of the top 10 fighters in the division. I think the toughest of them all is James Nakashima, and I will try to approach this fight in my peak form.”
There’s no denying Izagakhmaev’s roots. The 27-year-old grew up training with MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov under the tutelage of “The Eagle’s” late father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
The two fighters consider each other family, and Khabib still guides the rising star to this day. Izagakhmaev will have the lightweight icon in his corner for his first promotional appearance, and he believes that his influence will be evident inside the Circle.
“My style is the same as my elder brothers: Khabib, Islam Makhachev, and many other guys from our gym. It is wrestling and binding to the opponent,” he says.
“I grew up in front of Khabib. We receive a lot of instructions from him as our elder brother. We are always in touch. He controls our workout routine, and we plan to fly together to my fight in Singapore, Inshallah.
“Of course, when you have such a phenomenal fighter and athlete as Khabib in your corner – who [retired with] zero losses, who knows fighting better than anybody – if I make a mistake, he will help me out quickly and give me a hint when to press, when to engage, and when to retreat.”
The Makhachkala native credits Khabib and the Eagle MMA team with helping him to develop as a fighter, but he’s determined to show that he’s earned his place on the global stage, and it will be his actions that secure him victory on the night.
“I have 19 wins, and I was fighting alone in all of them. Nobody helped me and attacked my opponents on my behalf, which shows I can stand for myself on my own,” he states.
- Roman Kryklia Thinks He Can Dominate ‘Predictable’ Murat Aygun
- 5 Epic Knockouts From The Stars Of ONE: HEAVY HITTERS
- Aygun Warns Confident Kryklia: ‘I’ll Show Him What Easy Work Is’
Even with an impressive slate of wins, and an overall record of 19-2, the young Russian has a difficult first assignment in The Home of Martial Arts. In Nakashima, he’ll face a former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger, who is also an outstanding wrestler with many tools to his credit.
Izagakhmaev recognizes that the Arizona native will be a good match for him in the grappling department, but he’s unfazed by the task at hand and believes that his arsenal will be enough to handle anything his foe throws at him.
“I know that he is a very tough opponent. I also know he is from American freestyle wrestling. I have seen all of his fights. I don’t think he can surprise me with anything,” he offers.
“Since my opponent is a wrestling lover too, I think I will have to use my striking skills as well. I can use my elbows, legs, and boxing as needed. I think my style is fifty-fifty, and it depends on my opponent.
“Even if I can’t take him down, I won’t fixate on something. I will beat him standing up. I don’t see any danger from him, and I don’t think he is better than me at anything.”
Despite his confidence, Izagakhmaev isn’t the kind of fighter to make bold proclamations that he can’t back up – another characteristic that he credits to his homeland – so he won’t call his shot. That said, he makes it clear that he’s aiming to dispatch his opponent inside the distance.
“I can’t say anything about any specific way of [finishing] James Nakashima, but I plan to finish him either standing or on the ground. We’ll see. But where I’m from, if you say something, you have to prove your words at any cost,” he says.
If Izagakhmaev can take out an elite contender like Nakashima right off the bat, he will instantly put himself among the lightweight elite. And with ONE gold on his mind, the Russian debutant wants his peers to be ready for his charge toward the top.
“My goal in ONE Championship is to become the World Champion. If I didn’t have this goal in mind, I wouldn’t fight. I want to be a champion, and Inshallah, with the Lord’s help, I will become a champion,” he says.
“I want to tell my future opponents: be ready. Be ready for wrestling, for stand-up, [it makes] no difference. After I am past James Nakashima, I will approach more top fighters, such as Ok Rae Yoon and Eddie Alvarez.”