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Zubair Tukhugov inspired by Fedor Emelianenko in UFC debut

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

JARAGUA DO SUL, Brazil -- The list of Russian fighters in the UFC keeps getting new names, and the most recent addition is Zubair Tukhugov.

A 16-3 featherweight from Chechnya, Tukhugov was expected to make his UFC debut against Thiago Tavares at UFC Fight Night 36 in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil, but Tavares suffered an injury less than 10 days before the fight. UFC newcomer Douglas Silva de Andrade took his spot, but Tukhugov was the one who had his hands raised after the bout.

"He surprised me," Tukhugov told the media after the win, through an interpreter. "He looked ready to fight anyone. He fought really well. It was tough for me when I heard they would have to change my opponent nine days before the fight, but I decided to fight anyways.

"I really liked my performance in the UFC. The UFC is a big promotion, they treat us the fighters really well, and I’m happy to be part of it."

Tukhugov joins the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ali Bagautinov, Rustam Khabilov and Omari Akhmedov in the UFC, and he’s confident that more Russians will enter the Octagon soon.

"I believe we’ll see a lot of Russians fighting in the UFC now that they’re interested in going to Russia," he said. "The UFC has plans to do an event in Russia this year, and I would like to be part of the card."

With five stoppage victories in his MMA career, the featherweight is inspired by the legendary Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

"I personally know Fedor and he’s a great fighter, one of the best of all times," Tukhugov said. "I look up to him, he’s an inspiration because he’s really good."

"There are a lot of great Russians fighters in the UFC," he continued. "One of them, Adlan Amagov, already left the UFC because of family issues, but I’m sure that many other Russians will get here in the future. We have a lot of great fighters that deserve to be in the UFC."