Muhammad Mokaev isn’t afraid to name names after he claims several ranked fighters have turned down the opportunity to face him.
The undefeated prospect, who many consider a future contender in the flyweight division, has been anxiously awaiting the chance to climb up the ladder at 125 pounds but he’s been struggling to get anyone with a number next to their name to accept his challenge. At UFC 286, Mokaev will face Contender Series veteran Jafel Filho because he says that’s the only person the matchmakers could find him when numerous others just said no.
“Basically Matt Schnell, David Dvorak, Tim Elliott and Sumudaerji, they all have been offered [a fight against me],” Mokaev revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Tim Elliott is injured, I understand, but the rest they all declined. That’s how I know from Mick Maynard. He told me if you want to fight in March, only an unranked opponent is available.
“I can’t get anyone from the top 15, nobody wants it. I said I don’t care. Give me anyone. I just want to stay busy and I see how rankings work. If you win, you’re going up. I don’t have to fight Sumudaerji to go up. No disrespect to Sumudaerji, I have trained with him before. I need more challenge than guys like Sumudaerji.”
According to Mokaev, he originally wanted a matchup with Amir Albazi after he previously tried to book a short notice fight against him this past December.
Mokaev had just won a fight at UFC 280 in late October but when he got word that Brandon Royval suffered an injury and wouldn’t be able to compete, he immediately tried to land the fight with Albazi.
“It is [frustrating],” Mokaev said. “I want to be the youngest UFC champion and there’s a guy like Amir Albazi, I want to fight him and three weeks before his fight, my manager called me and said there’s a replacement needed for Amir Albazi. That was after my fight in Abu Dhabi. My weight goes up to like 155 [pounds] after the fight, I’m very big for flyweight. It’s three weeks’ notice, I just got back from Abu Dhabi so I said let’s do a catchweight against Amir Albazi in America. I said I’m ready.
“Amir Albazi was told catchweight and he said no, he wants to do flyweight. Listen, if you want to fight it doesn’t matter. You saw Charles Johnson fought last weekend. He was in Thailand training with me and he went to fight on four days’ notice at a catchweight. If you’re a real fighter you don’t care that it’s a catchweight or up a weight class. If you need a replacement, you should accept anyone but he accepted a guy making his debut.”
Albazi ultimately won a fight against UFC newcomer Alessandro Costa and with Mokaev hoping to fight on the March pay-per-view card in England, he attempted to revisit the matchup since they were both available again.
This time, Mokaev says he was rejected simply because he wasn’t ranked high enough despite an eerily similar record in the UFC as Albazi.
“I said let’s fight in March and he said you need to deserve to fight top 15 guys,” Mokaev said. “I said deserve for what? If we count his four wins in the UFC, he’s on exactly the same line as me. He beat [Deiveson] Figueiredo’s brother, who Malcolm Gordon beat. He beat Malcolm Gordon. He beat Zhalgas Zhumagulov, who Charles Johnson also beat and he just beat a guy making his debut. I’m on the same path as him.
“I’m not higher than him, I’m not lower. We’re on the same line and he’s saying he wants to fight top five guys. I don’t understand how he wants to be a champion if he wants to avoid guys like me.”
Mokaev also tried to throw his name in the hat for one-time title challenger Alex Perez when he needed an opponent recently but even that didn’t work out for him after Manel Kape got the opportunity instead.
“Manel Kape doesn’t have a ground game,” Mokaev said about Perez’s choice. “He has powerful punches but he don’t have a ground game. Alex Perez would rather pick Manel Kape than me.”
As angry as it might make him that Albazi and other ranked flyweights won’t give him the time of day, Mokaev refuses to play the same games when it comes to his own career.
On paper, the 22-year-old Dagestani native doesn’t have much to gain in his upcoming fight against Filho considering his opponent hasn’t even competed in the UFC yet. That doesn’t matter much to Mokaev, however, because he wants to stay active and put together a resume that will eventually lead him to a title shot.
None of that happens if he’s turning down fights so Mokaev will just keep taking on whoever the UFC throws at him until there’s just no one left.
“Top 15 guys saying it’s a risky fight, they don’t want to take the risk but I’m fighting Jafel Filho, who is a dangerous guy,” Mokaev said. “A Brazilian, young, hungry guy. I’m risking my spot. I put everything on the table against these guys because I want to stay busy. I want to fight. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to stay active for the fans.
“Before I was fighting [professionally], I was a fan of Tony Ferguson because he always stayed active. I was a fan of Rustam Khabilov, who had four fights in one year. I know what fans want and I just want to stay busy. I don’t care risking my spot or not. This is fighting.”