UFC star Muhammad Mokaev reflects on his recent victory- and discusses why he is fully behind both Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletic
The 22-year-old was born in Dagestan but arrived in the North West of England just over a decade ago as a refugee, and attended Deanery High School and St John Rigby College.
Last weekend he extended his UFC record to 4-0 after making Jafel Filho submit in the third round of their flyweight bout in London, but did suffer a knee injury during the showdown.
“The win was an amazing feeling,” he said.
“Each day I understand that it’s a good job I didn’t tap because it would be hurting my heart right now.
“I want more, I want to become a champion.
“I knew if I had tapped it wouldn’t be any easier in my career, so I handled the pain.
“This is my first injury coming out of the cage, so I’m grateful because it could happen in every single fight.
“In six to eight weeks I will be back in full training and I’m looking to fight in July, it could be either the UK card of Madison Square Garden.
“From Wigan to there, it’s not bad. It’s something I imagined but with hard work it’s more realistic.
“Nothing can stop me now, it shows the division that I want more.”
On Friday night Mokaev was in attendance at the DW Stadium as Wigan Warriors produced a late comeback to overcome Salford Red Devils with a 20-16 victory.
“The game showed you’ve got to fight all the way,” he added.
“Even if you’re losing you can’t break mentally. You have a team that needs to go all the way and put the effort in.
“They could play like 32 games, which is crazy.
“You can talk about my injury, but these guys get them every week and are still playing.
“They have strong willpower.
“It’s tough, while I was watching I think I got injured a couple of times, but it was an amazing atmosphere.
“The players take risks.
“I really want to train with the squad, I think I can be beneficial for them and show them some wrestling techniques.
“When I was younger I used to come and watch games.
“I remember Sam Tomkins being a big star.
“Now, I want to come more because I’ve moved back to Wigan.
“I’ve been travelling a lot, I haven’t even seen my family too much.”
Mokaev is also a follower of Wigan Athletic, and believes it is important to get behind both clubs in the town.
“When they beat Manchester City I was in the town celebrating when the bus was driving past,” he explained.
“I have to support them, I live here.
“People were messaging me (before the fight), saying ‘please put the Wigan shirt on.’
“I wasn’t able to do that, so I wore the hat in the changing room instead.
“This town is built on sport.
“It’s good for the young generation to have two strong teams in the town, it keeps them off the streets.
“I went to Deanery High School, playing in the football and rugby teams.
“I wasn’t the best at football but at least with rugby I could do some tackling.”