Few regions in the world produce as many high-level fighters per capita as that of Dagestan. Their toughness and wrestling pedigree often strikes a degree of fear into those set to fight them.
At UFC Auckland, Brad Riddell will take on one of Dagestan’s brightest prospects in Magomed Mustafaev.
Mustafaev has earned his reputation as one of the region’s top prospects through dominating displays inside the cage. With 15 wins coming by finish (11 KO’s, 4 submissions), the Dagestani has become a fighter that many have tried to avoid at all costs.
“They deserve their reputation,” Riddell said at the UFC media day.
“They are good fighters; they are very tough people and really good martial artists and they are hard to fight.”
Fighters from Dagestan are often taught how to fight before they can walk. Sports like Sambo are a national past time much like the oval ball codes in New Zealand and Australia. Because of this, Riddell is eager to take the challenge head-on.
“A lot of people don’t have much experience with them,” Riddell said.
“I spent a lot of time with these guys at Tiger Muay Thai and I have more experience with them. I feel more comfortable fighting these Eastern Bloc fighters.”
A Muay Thai fighter at heart, Riddell spent many years training in Phuket which attracts fighters from all over the globe. Many Russian and Dagestani fighters go there to sharpen their stand-up skills while escaping the cold of their homeland.
Riddell believes this experience of training alongside them will give him an edge when he goes against Mustafaev on Sunday at UFC Auckland.
“To me, it’s the same as fighting anybody else,” Riddell continued.
“To other people, they get a little bit nervous because they don’t know much about them. When you don’t know something about someone, it might freak you out a little bit.
“Also, everyone relates Dagestan fighters to Khabib and he’s phenomenal, but they are not all Khabib and I plan on going out there and showing that.”
The fight against Mustafaev will be Riddell’s second in the UFC after his brutal back and forth fight against Jamie Mullarkey at UFC 243 in Melbourne.
Riddell and Mullarkey put on a fight of the night performance which saw Riddell walk away with a bonus and left the fans in attendance in awe at what the just witnessed.
Although the fight was fan-friendly, Riddell acknowledges those types of fights are not the best for the longevity of his career.
“I know the crowd likes those wars, but it’s not the best for your long-term health,” Riddell said.
“Last time was a bit of a war and a little different from what I usually fight. This time I’m aiming to have more clinical performance and out skill this guy.
“As long as I keep my head cool and don’t get sucked into a fistfight, we have very similar styles, we are very aggressive and we like to fight, so it’s going to be very entertaining but I like I’m just going to keep my cool and outperform him.”