Continuing the Dagestani Takeover: Saygid Izagakhmaev’s Path to One Championship

By Tudor Leonte Nov 10, 2021

The training partner of former UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov could be the next big thing in One Championship’s lightweight division.

Back in October, former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Nurmagomedov revealed on his social accounts that One Championship signed his 27-year-old training partner, Saygid Izagakhmaev. At the time, “The Eagle” announced his teammate would make his promotional debut in December, bearing a record of 19 wins and two defeats. While a surge in COVID-19 cases might have messed up the promotional schedule once more — at the time of writing, Izagakhmaev hasn’t received an official dancing partner, nor a date for his debut —, the Dagestani fighter is expected to have a big impact in One. The Eagles MMA representative’s opponents boast a combined record of 218 wins and 94 defeats, a victory rate just under 70%.

The former Gorilla Fighting Championship interim 170-pound champion made his first MMA appearance in July 2012, when he was almost 18 years old. His early opponents barely made Izagakhmaev break a sweat, as he won his first five fights in a row by first-round submissions. Izagakhmaev also took part in a one-night tournament, taking home the final victory after stopping both his opponents that night. Overall, only two out of his eight opponents featured a positive record or at least an MMA victory until that moment.

Catching the attention of a major Russian promotion, Izagakhmaev was matched with another exciting prospect, Magomedrasul Gasanov, who was coming off his first defeat. In the first real test of his career, Izagakhmaev staked out the center of the cage while Gasanov moved in and out to attack with punches and low kicks. Izagakhmaev never caught his opponent’s measure in striking, and his takedown attempts in the first two rounds were unsuccessful. Sensing that he had to move it to the canvas to win the fight, Izagakhmaev shot for a successful takedown right out of the gate in Round 3, finally managing to swim in familiar waters. Izagakhmaev ended with his back against the mat during the following scramble, only to immediately shoot for an armbar. After sweeping his foe and fighting for the submission for almost one minute, Izagakhmaev forced Gasanov to tap at 1 minute, 15 seconds. After the stinging defeat, Gasanov would move up to middleweight and put on an impressive 10-win streak en route to capturing the Absolute Championship Akhmat interim championship. Gasanov’s 89% win percentage is the highest of any Izagakhmaev opponent to date.

Under the Fight Nights Global banner, Izagakhmaev would score three more victories, overcoming a stern test in Nikolay Aleksakhin at Fight Nights Global 57, among others. The first hiccup in the Russian fighter’s career was former Jungle Fight 170-pound champion and UFC alum Elias Silverio. Izagakhmaev was arguably the favorite at the fight’s eve, having age and an unblemished record on his side. However, Silverio’s experience tipped the balance. Izagakhmaev showed improvements on the feet and some educated punches from the clinch, but it wasn’t enough. His cardio fell short after taking on someone who could match — and even outmatch — his combat sambo background. Ultimately, Silverio took home a well-deserved and hard-fought unanimous decision victory.

The defeat fueled Izagakhmaev, who moved to Gorilla Fighting Championships and piled up four three straight victories before upending Rasul Mamaev and capturing the promotional interim welterweight championship. His young age, combined with his impressive record, earned him the opportunity to compete in front of UFC president Dana White, who was attending the UAE Warriors 15 card looking for new UFC signees. Unfortunately for Izagakhmaev, that night he locked horns with Carlston Harris, who locked up a vicious anaconda choke in the second stanza. Izagakhmaev briefly tapped before losing consciousness — and his chance to join the UFC roster.

After getting back to the lab and polishing his grappling arsenal, Izagakhmaev fired back with two back-to-back submission victories. First, he choked Paulo Cesar Oliveira at Eagle Fighting Championship 36 before applying the same treatment to former Fight Night welterweight title challenger Maxim Butorin in the Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov In Memory Tournament.

The One lightweight roster should stay on warning as Izagakhmaev won’t come to take part, but to take over. The Dagestani might be a slow starter, but he knows when to change gear and get the job done. It’s hard not to see him competing for the divisional belt before the end of 2022, once the Ok Rae Yoon-Christian Lee affair is solved. The “Land of the Mountains” has already given birth to a couple of One titleholders in Marat Gafurov and Alaverdi Ramazanov, the former featherweight kingpin and former kickboxing bantamweight champion, respectively. Izagakhmaev has all the requirements to be the next one in that short-listed club.

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