For most fighters, fighting six times in six months might seem like quite a daunting task. Abusupiyan Magomedov, however, is not like most fighters. The 28 year-old Dagestani native came up in a place where, he claims, fighting was simply part of the routine.
“When you’re young in Dagestan, every day you fight,” Magomedov told Sherdog.com. “If you don’t fight, your friend fights.” Yet his friends’ opponents were often not alone, which meant Magomedov would still have to fight.
Fighting is a part of life for many youngsters in Dagestan, as is wrestling, which Magomedov also practiced. He claims there are wrestling schools in every city of the Russian-controlled republic and that the sport is akin to what basketball and football are for many inner-city youths in America: the one outlet that could lead to a better life for them and their families. “In Dagestan there is not much work. What you have is training [in wrestling],” Magomedov said.
Magomedov’s family ended up leaving Dagestan for Germany when he was 15. The move was not one of preference, but of necessity. His mother had an illness that could not be treated properly in his homeland. “Only in Germany could they do something,” he said. Germany afforded them a chance to get his mother healthy and after a few years, she recovered from her illness but the family decided to stay permanently.
As a wrestler for many years, he had dreams of representing his new home as an Olympian, something that would not have been possible in his place of birth. Those aspirations fell short, as he was unable to secure the documentation required to be recognized as a German citizen. It is part of the reason why he decided to transition his competitive dreams into MMA. “In MMA it doesn’t matter what you have. You just have to be good,” said Magomedov. By 2010, at the age of 20, he was a professional MMA fighter.
Magomedov has been a professional for eight years. He is a veteran of the German MMA scene, which began to build a following at the same time he entered the sport. When Professional Fighters League came calling -- via his manager -- he received an offer he couldn’t refuse and a chance to ply his trade in the United States. “My manager called me. He was in Las Vegas [and] he talked with [PFL President] Ray Sefo. He told me, ‘I sent you a contract for $1 million.’ I said ‘Really?’ Then I said ‘OK,’” he said with a laugh.
Fighting in the US was something Magomedov had long looked forward to, ever since he began training at stateside MMA powerhouses such as American Top Team and Xtreme Couture in the last few years. “I think it is everyone’s goal to go to America to train, because it is the best place for MMA,” Magomedov said.
“Abus” has had quite an impressive run in front of American audiences during this season of the PFL, going 3-0, including two impressive first-round finishes. His last victory however -- against Sadibou Sy in the playoff semifinals -- was a fight he did not expect to have. “I thought he would lose again to [Bruno] Santos,” Magomedov said. Sy had lost to his quarterfinal opponent Santos during the season, and Magomedov felt Santos would use his wrestling once again to secure a victory. He even prepared for it during his camp, in case he made it to the semis. “I trained just wrestling for Santos. I didn’t think Sy would win that fight. And then [he won], and I thought, ‘What the f*ck. What happened here?’” he said with another laugh.
Despite not being as prepared as he would have liked for the long and rangy striker from Sweden, he made the best of the hour he had between bouts to strategize. “My game plan is always a standup fight,” he says. He let the fight play out on the feet in the first stanza so he could “see what [Sy] can do and what he can’t do.” However, an early head-kick attempt by Sy made the Dagestani adjust his strategy for the second and third rounds. There he implemented the wrestling skills he has worked on since his childhood, and still works on heavily to this day. “I know my wrestling is good. I do this in Germany. I compete in wrestling against good guys from Russia, Iran and Turkey,” Magomedov said. He competes regularly in the Bundesliga wrestling league in Germany.
Magomedov will face Chicago pugilist Louis Taylor in the middleweight division’s championship bout in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 31. He views the veteran of 11 years in the sport as a fighter who can handle himself in any situation and a dangerous yet unorthodox striker. “He can punch from every position and he has heavy hands,” said Magomedov.
In the end, the UFD Gym fighter feels there are key qualities that separates him from Taylor, and will earn him the victory. “I’m younger and I have much more hunger than him, I think,” he said.
Even though Magomedov will attempt to earn himself a million-dollar payday on New Year’s Eve, this year has already been a boon for his bank account. “This is the best year [financially] of my career,” Magomedov said. He doesn’t take the opportunities for granted, because he believes next year the competition in Season 2 will only get tougher, as more talent from around the sport join the league. “Next year will be much stronger. I think it will be much harder [to win it all],” he said.
Magomedov plans to return for next season, although he would be open to an eventual fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Under one condition: “If the UFC offered me a contract, I would fight only a top-10 fighter.”
“Abus” believes he has done enough in his career to merit that and that a PFL championship, along with his 23-3 record, is proof enough to earn high-level competition right away rather than work his way up from the prelims. After all, he’s been fighting his whole life.