Consider the hype justified.
Mokaev tore through Cody Durden in just 58 seconds at UFC London to win his promotional debut and notch the second-fastest submission in UFC flyweight history.
“Fifty-eight seconds changed everything,” Mokaev said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“I’ve had this before — after every fight, there’s something like this — but this one was different.”
It was a perfect introduction to the big stage for a 21-year-old prospect who many have long hailed as a future UFC title contender.
For Mokaev, it was also a moment of vindication after a testy lead-up that began this past November when Mokaev called for the bout following Durden’s controversial remarks at UFC Vegas 43. In the aftermath of Durden’s win over Qileng Aori, the American said in his post-fight interview that he wanted to send Aori “back to China, where he came from” — comments which the newly-signed Mokaev immediately called out as “racist.”
Mokaev ended up getting his wish to fight Durden as his entry into the UFC. The two traded shots in the media ahead of the bout, and Mokaev said that animosity continued throughout UFC London fight week as they ran into each other in the host hotel.
“Twice, to be honest, on the fight day and then two days before the fight,” Mokaev said.
“The first time I saw him, it was the start of the week. I was in the lift going up and he probably pressed the bottom on the second floor and was coming to the first. He wanted to walk in, then he saw me. I’m like, ‘Hey Cody, you still alive?’ I said hello and then he didn’t go in. I was with one of my coaches — actually it was a video guy with me. And then I [told this story in an] interview and [Durden responded on Twitter], ‘No, it’s bulls***. I said you’re a motherf*****.’ And I listened and I’m like, ‘Man, you didn’t say this. Just leave it.’
“So on the fight day, he was with the security guard, and I was in lift with about eight people, maybe six people,” Mokaev continued. “And the same situation happened — he wanted to walk in, and he saw us and and he didn’t want to go in, and then the security guard [said], ‘Don’t worry. Don’t worry, Cody, come in.’ So he got in and then it was fight day, in the morning after breakfast, and I said, ‘Oh, you don’t have your glasses,’ because he put glasses on at weigh-ins so I didn’t see his eyes. And we talk and he said, ‘You’re going to get smashed anyway tonight. I’ll smash you right now if you want to.’
“But I left it for the pay day. And then I’ve said it and I’ve done it.”
In the end, Mokaev even exceeded his own expectations. After promising a second-round finish of Durden in the pre-fight banter, he one-upped himself by blitzing the American with a flying knee followed by a picture-perfect guillotine choke to handle his business early and ignite his adopted hometown English crowd inside London’s 02 Arena.
Then he let Durden hear about it one last time before all was said and done.
“I realized, I’m like, ‘Hey, I just dropped him, like nearly a TKO,’ and then I thought maybe they’ll say it’s a lucky kick, punch — I’m like, let’s submit him,” Mokaev said. “So I finished him, I’ve done everything that was possible in about one minute. There’s nothing else to prove in there. And ... we make him listen.
“He talked bad about this Chinese guy in UFC. I told him, ‘Listen, if you carry on, we’ll send you — I’ll send you tonight to [the U.S.] embassy and they’ll take you back to the U.S. But if he doesn’t carry on, he’s already [been] humbled, it’s enough. Don’t need to bring him [more], it’s maybe a bit of bullying. But let him stay there, maybe he becomes a better person.”
Mokaev may still be young in the game, but he’s one of the most intriguing talents to enter the UFC’s 125-pound division in recent memory and he doesn’t want to take the slow road to title contention. The Dagestan-born up-and-comer is already eyeing a return on the UFC’s return to International Fight Week — July 2 at UFC 276 — and he wants MMA Fighting’s No. 15 ranked global flyweight Tim Elliott to be his dance partner.
“It’d be amazing fighting on on that card,” Mokaev said. “I’m already like, ‘Hey, give me Tim Elliott. Give me anybody from top 15, top 10.’ I know they’ll be like this, ‘Hey, who is this young kid?’ And already Tim Elliott posted on Twitter, ‘I’m too old, everybody’s picking on me. I’ve got more bonuses than you actually have fights.’ Then fight me. Don’t talk too much. Either you want to fight or you just shut up.
“Tim Elliott, I respect. He’s a great opponent. People say there’s Amir Albazi, there’s [other contenders]. I said, ‘Anybody, please give me.’ But Tim Elliott is a good name to beat.”