"Tsarukyan Is Not On The Same Level As Islam". Ulanbekov Talks About Makhachev, Mokaev, Saint-Denis And His Comeback At UFC 296

Marina Magomedova
15 Dec 2023

On the night of December 17 at UFC 296 in Las Vegas, Russian flyweight fighter Tagir Ulanbekov will have his first fight of the year against American Cody Durden.

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Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir Ulanbekov

In an exclusive interview with Telecomasia.net, Ulanbekov told:

  • why he hasn't fought in the UFC for a year;
  • in what case he will be ready to fight Muhammad Mokaev;
  • who helps him in training;
  • why a training camp in America is a must;
  • how the rematch between Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan will unfold;
  • how many doping tests he and Makhachev passed.
Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir UlanbekovDagestan, Russia
Age 32 years
Height168.64 cm
Weight divisionFlyweight (56,7 kg)
MMA stats14 wins, 2 losses
UFC stats3 wins, 1 loss
Fightmatrix ranking16th in the flyweight division

- Your opponent Cody Durden is riding a four-fight win streak. What do you think are his strong sides?

- His strong sides are wrestling and a good striking technique.

- Your base is wrestling. Will you be comfortable competing against an opponent with a similar style?

- I have fought with wrestlers before and some of them were even superior, so I don't see it as a problem.

Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir Ulanbekov

- Javier Mendez will not be in your corner this time. Will it be more difficult to fight without him?

- Of course, Javier has been training me for many years and he knows my weaknesses and strengths, he knows what I need to do in the fight. This time Javier won't be around, but he and I are in touch, so I think everything will be fine.

- You have already had a year without fights. How difficult was that? Have you had any fight offers in that time?

- There have been offers. I was supposed to fight in August and also in February or March. First I had health problems and needed to have immediate surgery. Then I was offered to fight in August. I accepted it, I prepared, but when I came to America, I trained there for a week and then I fought with an infection for three weeks. I had severe maxillary sinusitis. I had a fever and couldn't even leave the house. I was taking antibiotics for a month and I could barely recover.

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- This time Islam Makhachev came to you. What advice did he give you before the fight?

- Yes, Islam will be in my corner. He arrived recently, a couple of days ago. I won't say that he gave any particular advice, but having people you've known for a long time around charges you with good energy.

- Islam and Khabib were famous for their excellent control on the ground. Your wrestling is also at a high level, but why don't you have as much control as they do?

- Probably, because I don't spend much time fighting on the ground. Things are always hard for me and take a lot of time.

- When is your fight with Muhammad Mokaev possible?

- Probably only if the championship belt is at stake, and I don't want to fight him. Neither does he.

Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir Ulanbekov
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- Roman Kopylov and Magomed Ismailov have decided to hold a Brazilian jiu-jitsu bout in Russia. Would you be interested to compete with another fighter in grappling or wrestling, which is allowed by the terms of the contract with the UFC?

- I haven't had such offers. I will definitely not fight in freestyle wrestling, but I could fight in grappling.

- Conor Magregor's comeback is once again delayed. Do you expect to see him in the octagon again?

- So far there's only a great deal of discussion about him, and I don't know anything about his plans.

Tagir Ulanbekov
Tagir Ulanbekov

- You said that Ahmad, who you describe as your brother, also helps you in your preparation. What is his part in it?

- I have known Ahmad since kindergarten, then we went to the same school, lived in the same house. He has been by my side since my first professional fight. When this man is around, I am in a completely different mood. I get up in the morning, get in the car, and Ahmad takes care of everything else, including helping me with weight cuts. He always knows what I need, sees when I am nervous and understands it.

- You spend the first part of your training in Dagestan in Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov's school. Who is now in charge of the training process after his passing?

- Today Magomed Bagandov is the head coach. He is fully in charge of training and discipline. Murad Machaev helps him in wrestling and grappling. These two coaches manage the entire training process.

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- Could you fully organize the preparation there or do you need to go to America before the fight?

Tagir Ulanbekov
I think that going to America is a must, because there you get isolated from all the outside factors before the fight. When you're at home, friends and family can invite you to go out. They often call you to weddings and other events. If you refuse, they get offended, but if you agree, it impacts your training. Like, you stayed out late, you didn't get enough sleep in the morning, and the training will be poor. That's why you have to go to America a month and a half or two months before the fight.

- Arman Tsarukyan and his team talk a lot about a possible rematch against Islam Makhachev. Is he really the most dangerous opponent for Islam in this division and what can change in a rematch?

- Only one thing can change here - Islam will beat him even more spectacularly than the first time. I think that Arman is not equal to Islam's level yet for them to have a close fight.

- French UFC fighter Benoit Saint-Denis said that Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev and all fighters of your team are doped. How often do you take doping tests?

- I personally took doping tests 15-20 times under the supervision of the commissioners. It is a very serious moment when they come and take our samples. There is no way to cheat. Islam has taken tests 45-50 times, Khabib has also done it many times and not once have we been caught doping.

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