Saygid Izagakhmaev is all set to make his ONE Championship debut when he faces former title challenge James Nakashima in a 170 pound (ONE lightweight division) matchup at ONE: Heavy Hitters on Friday, January 14 in Singapore, and he has one of the sport’s all-time greats backing him for success.
Former undisputed UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is a longtime teammate of Izagakhmaev, and now acts as his coach and cornerman.
And the undefeated legend says the 19-2 27-year-old has all the skills and determination needed to make a major impact inside the ONE Championship circle.
Speaking to ONE ahead of the event, Khabib explained, “I grew up with Saygid almost 15 years ago. We were training together. He began training with my father when he was very young. I know him very, very well. I’ve known him since he was a kid and he was always focused and trained hard. Always.
“I love how he stays focused all the time. Even during the last couple of years when I watched him, I really like how he’s improved a lot.”
Izagakhmaev faces a tough test on his promotional debut, with Nakashima generally considered to be one of the best grapplers in ONE’s 170-pound lightweight class.
Khabib admitted that he has been impressed with what he’s seen from the American. But he also stated that his charge’s own skills are good enough to eclipse Nakashima on fight night in Singapore.
“Nakashima’s a good fighter, a very good fighter,” he stated.
“I watched a couple of his fights, he has good wrestling. But I don’t think Nakashima can control him and control Saygid’s wrestling.
“We have a good plan. We’re going to defend his wrestling and we’re going to give him some damage. I really believe Saygid can finish him.”
If Izagakhmaev can live up that assessment, he’ll swiftly establish himself as a championship contender, and Khabib said fans will see constant evolution from the Russian fighter during his time with ONE.
“Saygid’s fighting style is very dangerous because he’s tall, he has a long reach, legs and arms,” he said.
“He has a very good elbow, a good clinch and, of course, he’s very good on the ground, ground game and grappling, like all the guys from our school.
“When I watched how he was one year ago and right now, he’s completely different. He’s only 27 years old and he keeps learning.
“I truly believe with ONE Championship he’s going to improve a lot, and the next couple of years with ONE Championship it’s going to be very interesting for him.
W”e’re all waiting for his debut. I know Saygid every day, morning and night he’s staying in the gym, and he’s very excited about his debut in ONE Championship. We’re all excited about this.”
The event will be headlined by a pair of world title fights, with the women’s strawweight title clash between Chinese world champion Xiong Jing Nan and Japanese judoka Ayaka Miura forming the main event, with co-main support from a light heavyweight kickboxing world title clash, as champion Roman Kryklia faces off against Murat Aygun.
ONE: Heavy Hitters – Fight Card
- Xiong Jing Nan (c) vs. Ayaka Miura – for women’s strawweight title
- Roman Kryklia (c) vs. Murat Aygun – for light heavyweight kickboxing world title
- Saemapetch vs. Tawanchai – Muay Thai bout
- James Nakashima vs. Saygid Izagakhmaev
- Supergirl vs. Ekaterina Vandaryeva – Muay Thai bout
- Senzo Ikeda vs. Jeremy Miado
- Elias Mahmoudi vs. Walter Goncalves – Muay Thai bout
- Beybulat Isaev vs. Giannis Stoforidis – kickboxing bout
- Yushin Okami vs. Leandro Ataides
- Shuya Kamikubo vs. Troy Worthen
- Tiffany Teo vs. Meng Bo
- Robin Catalan vs. Elipitua Siregar
Photo credit: @khabib_nurmagomedov (Instagram)