The refugee following within the footsteps of Khabib Nurmagomedov

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However having gone from residing on simply £5 ($6.6) a day in Wigan, northern England, the place he and his father needed to fear about affording meals, the 20-year-old is now knowledgeable MMA fighter — he had a 22-0 beginner report and has a 4-0 skilled report to this point — with members of the Bahraini royalty as a few of his fundamental supporters.

These are busy instances for Mokaev.

“We do not know what [will] occur tomorrow,” added Mokaev, shortly after he returned from Istanbul the place he obtained engaged to his future spouse. “So I can’t waste time.”

Mokaev celebrates a victory wearing the tradition Dagestani papakha headpiece.

‘Life began from zero’

Born in Dagestan in 2000, Mokaev was launched to combating early on. Wrestling is a particularly common sport in Russia and Mokaev competed in native golf equipment — usually as an alternative of attending faculty.

“[At] faculty, both you go to coaching, both you go and sit exterior and speak about life,” he explains. “Like you’ll be able to sit, sit, after which there’s any individual who begins combating, possibly two or three fights in a single circle. As a result of individuals [have] obtained nothing to do.

“At the moment, I would go to coach and are available again residence. We are able to go to coaching; we will go to highschool. Typically you’ll be able to miss classes in class to go to coaching. It is such as you’d name the instructor and say: ‘I am caught in coaching, I can not come right now.’ And she or he’d say, ‘OK.’ That is the way it works.”

Nonetheless, when he was eight years outdated and after his mom had died, he says his father Murad “had issues,” which meant they needed to go away their residence.

“My father instructed me: ‘Son, we now have to go.’ And it was tough as a result of my cousin and a part of my household are there and a whole lot of my mates who I grew up with.”

So, in a automotive full of garments and with no cash, Mokaev and his father made the lengthy journey throughout mainland Europe till they finally arrived at their finish vacation spot within the UK.

Upon arriving in a rustic the place he didn’t communicate a phrase of the native language, Mokaev’s “life began from zero.”

“It was loopy,” he recalled. “A distinct nation, new language, new custom of the individuals. And it was scary.”

Mokaev and his father, Murad.

A primary style

After initially staying in Liverpool, Mokaev and his father got a home in Wigan to stay in.

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As refugees, they have been additionally supplied with a small sum of money each day to stay on.

“I got here to UK as a refugee and I used to be getting like £5 a day. Me and my father on £5 a day, it is like possibly $6-7, and it is like you need to break up this for meals and garments and Web on your telephone. It is not sufficient. I used to be hungry.”

Not solely did Mokaev not know the language, he had no earlier expertise of British tradition and traditions. In Dagestan, if somebody spoke ailing of his household, Mokaev was accustomed to defending his household’s identify, whereas within the UK, he needed to follow restraint.

Regardless of being younger and with little cash to his identify, Mokaev nonetheless held goals of touring the world — particularly, visiting the US — and understood that getting a felony report from combating on the streets would make that concept harder.

However after a sports activities instructor at his faculty launched him to a youth middle, the place combating was on supply, Mokaev discovered a solution to channel his power and located an introduction to MMA.

“Principally there’s like soccer, wrestling, boxing; there was every part. So I went to boxing after which subsequent hour I went to wrestling.

“After which at some point this man stated: ‘Let’s do boxing and wrestling within the ring.’ So I used to be taking this man down and this man was a part of the northern areas code within the UK for wrestling. So I requested him the place can we go for wrestling. After which he confirmed me the gymnasium. So I went to wrestling membership and that is the start.”

Mokaev (left) aims a knee at Jamie Kelly during Brave CF 43 in Bahrain.

A distinct path

Mokaev needed to choose up varied jobs so as to fund his MMA coaching, starting from safety work to giving leaflets out on the streets and cleansing constructing websites.

On prime of that, the journey to and from coaching usually totaled over six hours.

“I am actually grateful to God. He gave me these challenges as a result of possibly if I got here to this nation with some huge cash, possibly I would be on the streets, possibly I would be like a celebration boy,” Mokaev defined.

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Due to the place he has come from and what he has gained, Mokaev has eager to supply assist to different refugees. He nonetheless visits refugees within the north of England to see their “hungry eyes” and inspire them by explaining that with onerous work, their “life in 5 years will be very completely different.”

And though all refugees are sometimes put beneath one umbrella to make it simpler to outline them, given the complexity and variety of their backgrounds, Mokaev stresses the significance of not grouping all of them collectively and praising their uniqueness.

“There’s some medical doctors, there’s some like dental follow [run by] some refugees; some got here from completely different nations,” he stated.

“They research, they’ve most likely accomplished much more than me differently, like college; it isn’t straightforward. And you can’t put everyone in the identical circle, like if one refugee [is] doing one thing unhealthy, they put everyone in the identical circle. They can not deal with individuals like this.”

Mokaev punches Kelly during a fight.

Calling for assist

Whereas MMA was “only a pastime” for Mokaev again in Russia, it quickly grew to become greater than that. He realized that conventional academic routes won’t be his finest probability of success in life.

“Within the UK, I understood my English wasn’t the perfect to go to college, like Oxford, Cambridge, like my father,” stated Mokaev, whose Dad is a constructing engineer.

“So he is like college, college daily, school, faculty, do homework. And I understood that is perhaps a long run plan. Like he says: ‘Go to college.’ I understood that. Perhaps I am going to not make him proud. So I’ve to make him proud [in a] completely different means.”

Having put all his focus and power into combating — while additionally protecting different jobs to assist fund it — Mokaev went from energy to energy.

His beginner profession actually shot to prominence with back-to-back title victories on the IMMAF World Championships in 2018 and 2019.

Nonetheless, as a refugee seeking to journey overseas to compete, he has needed to ask for some assist from some influential individuals.

After Mokaev’s first beginner combat in 2015, he was noticed by His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Khalifa — the fifth son of the King of Bahrain, who finally adopted the fighter on Instagram.

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Sheikh Khalid organized the KHK MMA crew — which initially included Nurmagomedov — in 2015 after which his personal MMA group — Courageous Fight Federation — in 2016.

The pair exchanged messages on Instagram and forward of the World Championships in Bahrain in 2019, Mokaev requested assist from the sheikh. When he was making an attempt to make his means by way of Manchester Airport, he was stopped and missed his flight.

“They did not let me go to Bahrain, so I referred to as the sheikh, the primary time I actually referred to as him. I referred to as him and he stated: ‘I am in London. Come see me.’ So I got here and on a personal aircraft, I flew to Bahrain with him.

“He began sponsoring me, offers me a great value after I gained the World Championship’s gold medal representing his crew.”

Mokaev (right) punches Jamie Kelly during Brave CF 43 in Bahrain.

Apparent comparisons

Since turning skilled with the sheikh’s group, Mokaev has gone from unknown rookie to one of many MMA’s hottest prospects, not too long ago beating fellow Brit Dave Jones to increase his report to an undefeated 4-0.

Due to his grappling abilities, his undefeated report and his customary sporting of Dagestan’s conventional papakha headpiece within the ring, comparisons between Mokaev and Nurmagomedov have begun commonplace.

However though Mokaev admits that his fellow Dagestani is the “individuals’s champion,” he believes there are large variations between the 2 of them.

“Me and Khabib are completely different individuals, I feel. Once I fought in amateurs, individuals knew me, like my charisma is completely different to Khabib’s.

“My charisma is completely different [than] Khabib’s as a result of individuals discovered about Khabib possibly when he was on a like a 26-fight profitable streak, possibly 27. Folks knew about me once I was [on] like my third beginner combat. The distinction once I get to that degree, you will notice the distinction.”

Mokaev celebrates after a victory.

Nurmagomedov’s shock retirement earlier this yr shocked a lot of the MMA group, with many suggesting he’s the best ever UFC fighter together with his 28-0 report.

Regardless of being within the nascent phases of his MMA profession, Mokaev believes he can surpass the achievements of the undefeated, light-weight champion Nurmagomedov.

“I imagine I can be [the greatest of all time],” says Mokaev confidently, earlier than reassuring followers that they may have the ability to watch him within the UFC “subsequent yr.”

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