In advance of the second UFC event ever held in Russia last Saturday, the first in its second largest city, Saint Petersburg, thousands of passionate mixed-martial-arts fans gathered at the spacious M-1 Arena to meet one of the most popular fighters in the country, undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov.
Accompanied by two of his coaches, his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov and AKA head coach Javier Mendez, along with other special guests including M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein, “The Eagle” answered questions of journalists and fans.
Nurmagomedov (27-0-0), who holds the longest running MMA win streak in the world, paid tribute to M-1 Global and Finkelchtein. The first Russian to become a UFC champion, Nurmagomedov didn’t forget where he came from, remembering the role M-1 Global and Finkelchtein played during his early pro career.
“Many fans know me because of my UFC fights, but I’d like to mention that before UFC I had 16 fights in my career, and it was a solid foundation,” Nurmagomedov said. “Three of these fights I had in M-1 Global against some very tough opponents back in 2009, when I was just a 19-20 years old athlete at the beginning of my path. M-1 Global gave me an opportunity to show my best and gain experience. I fought there three times and since then we are good friends and are still in contact.
“After 10 years I’ve become a champion, but nothing has changed, we are still in good relations and I want to say thank you to Vadim Finkelchtein and the whole M-1 Global promotion.”
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (center) recently paid tribute to M-1 Global and its president Vadim Finkelchtein (seated here to far left)
Between 2009 and 2011, Nurmagomedov finished off all three opponents he fought in M-1 Global competition: Shakhbulat Shamkhalaev, Vitaly Ostrovskiy and Alexander Agafonov.
Last summer, the Russian-Chinese investment fund, Mubadala Investment Company, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), jointly announced the foundation of UFC Russia, which promotes MMA and organizes shows in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
M-1 Global is a partner responsible for scouting and signing Russian athletes to prepare them to fight in the UFC. M-1 Challenge champions have a unique opportunity to sign contracts with the UFC.