MUHAMMAD MOKAEV arrived in England as a 12-year-old refugee who couldn’t speak a word of English.
But just nine years after leaving Russia with his dad following the passing of his mother, ‘The Punisher’ will proudly fly the St George’s flag when he makes his first walk to the octagon at UFC London tomorrow night.
And the adopted Manc, 21, hopes his Hollywood journey to fighting in MMA’s top promotion will be an inspiration for refugees across the globe.
The flyweight prospect told SunSport: “I want my story to inspire people, especially coming from the refugee background.
“I’ve been around these people for a long time, I’ve been a refugee for ten years now.
“That’s why I was so happy about getting my British passport, I couldn’t travel normally.
“People talk about refugees and say, ‘They come to this country and they don’t have families and they’re happy with what the Government gives them.’
“But to come to the country, you have to put yourself on the map so as not to be put in the same circle as all refugees.
“You have to stand out and believe in your skills. It doesn’t matter if you know English or not, you can build something here.
“If you could do it in your own country, you can do it here too. That’s what I want to prove and make motivation for those people.”
Mokaev knew he’d eventually make it to MMA’s premier promotion from the moment he made his amateur debut in 2015.
But the moment he put pen to paper on his UFC contract was an emotional one for the feared wrestler, who admitted: “It was special.
“But to be honest, the most interesting part of the journey is to now prove to people that this is possible.
“Because many people told me, ‘You’re not getting signed with your record. You need to be 10-0 to get signed by the UFC and you have to be in America.’
“But I always believed that I was going to be there. I could’ve been here earlier, but I wanted to take my time and have more fights in BRAVE. And now I’m ready to take over.”
Mokaev will be welcomed to the UFC cage by Cody Durden – who drew his ire with a controversial post-fight interview following his victory over Qileng Aori last November.
Durden said: “I had to send him back to China where he came from.”
Mokaev said of the American: “I really believe he’s not on my level. Even if you put my recent opponent – Blaine O’Driscoll – against him, he would go past him.
“I have something that these fighters don’t have. Of course, they’re older and they may have a strength advantage over me.
“But it’s not about the strength, it’s about fighting IQ and how you perform on the day. And I believe this fight will be a maximum of two rounds. It’ll be a finish in round two.”
Three-time IMMAF gold medallist Mokaev is over the moon to have made it to the UFC, but he doesn’t just want to make up the numbers.
The Dagestani-born Brit plans to create history within the Las Vegas fight promotion.
He said: “My goal is to become the youngest champion in UFC history. And I believe I can do that next year.”
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