Magomed Ankalaev got off on the wrong foot when joining Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in March 2018.
The No. 4-ranked Light Heavyweight contender dominated his opponent, Paul Craig, from pillar to post in a stellar overall debut. It appeared to be the emergence of a terrifying new prospect. Craig, however, had other plans, needing only a handful of seconds, locking in a Hail Mary triangle choke submission at the end of the fight. Ankalaev tapped with one second left before he would have achieved a clear-cut decision victory.
Ankalaev, 30, is set to compete in his first UFC title fight this weekend (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022) in the UFC 282 main event against former champion, Jan Blachowicz. Riding a nine-fight win streak, fans nearly saw the end of Ankalaev before his UFC run even got started.
“That loss changed my life,” Ankalaev told UFC Russia. “It was hard for me at first. I didn’t come out in public for a month. My mother lives in Khasavyurt with my brother, I spent a month there. I thought I wouldn’t fight anymore. Then within that month, I realized that it wasn’t because of me. I did everything I could, it was the will of the almighty. It was a relief. I started to understand the situation then I went back to training. I came in the gym and put in work. I left it all in the gym and got my results.
“When you’re undefeated, you always worry about the zero,” he continued. “I’m over that now. I know what it’s like to lose, what it’s like to win. I know how bitter it is to lose. With that knowledge, I give my all in the gym.”
Ankalaev (18-1) has battled through little resistance since his lone setback in the Octagon. Like many of his fellow talented Dagestani fighters, dealing with the pressure of an unbeaten record can be a big mental hurdle to overcome. Ankalev managed to turn his negative into a positive and it’s led him to a chance at becoming Russia’s first 205-pound UFC champion.
“I used to be worried about losing and what people say about me,” Ankalaev said. “That doesn’t happen anymore. You can that I had the worst loss in the UFC. I gave up literally in the final moments of a fight. People were saying good and bad things.
“The way I see it, I don’t do something to benefit someone else,” he concluded. “I do it for myself, my close ones. Those who believe in me. So it’s easy for me.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 282 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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