Shamil Zavurov, President of the Eagle Fighting Championship, says Fighting League’s supporter Khabib Nurmagomedov is paving the way for a new generation of Russian fighters to distinguish themselves at the top level of global MMA.
During all of the countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears spilled in the exercise room, one of the things some fighters need to distinguish themselves is a big break.
For Khabib, this was the case in early 2012, when the then 16-0 fighter took his first steps in the UFC’s cage to eventually achieve a world title and the status of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
The undefeated (and recently retired) Khabib stepped out of the spotlight last year after defending his UFC lightweight championship against gritty American Justin Gaethje and has since worked to shift focus to the next generation of Russian fighters who are following in his footsteps his cousins Usman and Umar and the highly respected Islam Makhachev fought their way to the top of the list.
However, according to Shamil Zavurov, president of the Eagle Fighting Championship, Khabib’s investment in Russian MMA doesn’t end there.
“They discuss it every time they meet,” Zavurov told the media, including RT Sport, after a recent Eagle FC event. “I believe that at every meeting, Khabib will try to sign some of our top fighters to the UFC.
“We have an oral agreement with our fighters that if they prove themselves in our league, we will push for them to be signed with the UFC. Nobody will keep them in the EFC.”
Eagle FC’s status as the feeder league for the UFC is similar to that of the Irish MMA promotion Cage Warriors, which always provides the major leagues with a steady stream of European talent – with two of the most famous, Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping, winning world titles and became a legitimate sports star.
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The UFC’s potential imports include Mehdi Dakaev, who made headlines at this week’s EFC event for breaking his opponent’s leg with a shy kick. The EFC lightweight champion, who is 13-2 in MMA, is believed to be making increasingly louder “blips” on both the UFC and Bellator radar, another major promotion that makes significant strides in securing emerging Russian Made talent.
But despite all of Khabib’s achievements, there is one man who stands alone as the most prominent figure in the history of Russian mixed martial arts: Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
The struggling patriarch of the Nurmagomedov clan, who passed away last summer after complications following a Covid-19 diagnosis, is responsible for leading the careers of a number of fighters to emerge from Russia – including Zavurov – and the president of Eagle FC says The Carriage will honor the fallen Nurmagomedov with a tribute event later this year.
“We will have an event in September and it will be the Abdulmanap memorial service,” he said. “We didn’t talk about hosting it with someone because we are able to host a high-level event ourselves.
“There is no discussion right now, but we’ll see. If our organization and Fight Nights are both interested, why not? We had a great event last year and can do it again.”
“Nothing is set in stone yet, but we are preparing for this event.”
Zavurov is hoping that at least one Nurmagomedov will be available for the fight – pointing out that Bellator recently signed Usman Nurmagomedov as a name to court.
“He fought last year,” declared Zavurov. “If all goes well, why shouldn’t he have it done again? Usman will be there, I will be there – we both carry Abdulmanap’s legacy and we will try to attend this event.”
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But one fighter confirmed for the event is Zavurov himself. The 39-6-1 fighter is on a card for his last career fight that I pay tribute to his mentor.
“Yeah, I’ll fight,” he said. “It will be my last fight. I want my last fight at this event as a final farewell to Abdulmanap, the man who raised me and made me who I am today.”