It’s well established that the featherweight division is one of the deepest, most competitive weight classes in the UFC at the moment, but just in case you needed further evidence to support this fact, consider the case of Movsar Evloev.
A perfect 13-0 to begin his career and 3-0 inside the Octagon, the 26-year-old remains unranked in the 145-pound weight class and is still awaiting his first opportunity to share the cage with an opponent sporting a number next to their name.
“It seems to me it is not beneficial for them to fight me,” Evloev said regarding his inability to secure a date against a ranked opponent thus far. “But sooner or later I will get to them.
“I'm satisfied with how my career is going so far, but there's no limit for perfection and I will be aiming for it,” added the talented Russian. “I am where I should be, but one thing I know for sure: all the Top 15 fighters have no idea what they will face.
“I hope when the time comes, they will be ready.”
This weekend in Las Vegas, the promising prospect squares off with Nate Landwehr in a clash of former M-1 Challenge champions that should provide further insights into where each man fits in the divisional hierarchy heading into 2021.
After landing on the wrong end of a first-round finish in his promotional debut, the fiery and aggressive Landwehr rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Darren Elkins in his sophomore appearance in the Octagon, showcasing the toughness and tenacity that made him an anticipated addition to the featherweight ranks earlier this year.
While they never crossed paths in combat before, Evloev and Landwehr did compete on the same card once before, at M-1 Challenge 95, where the former successfully defended his bantamweight title, while the latter claimed featherweight gold with a second-round stoppage win over Khamzat Dalgiev.
“I saw this fight, and it seems to me that he won this fight only because his opponent, Khamzat Dalgiev, was not in his best shape,” Evloev said, harkening back to the night they shared the same fight card in the summer of 2018.
“I think it will be an interesting matchup because everyone is interested when two champions find out who's best,” he said of Saturday’s contest. “He has many strong qualities, but the main thing is that I clearly understand where I am much stronger, and I intend to show this to the whole world on December 5th.”
Although he trains at American Top Team in South Florida and has already made the walk to the Octagon on three occasions, emerging victorious each time, Evloev is only now starting to garner some of the attention and acclaim befitting of an emerging contender of his stature.
Part of that is because each of his first three appearances came overseas on the prelims, while a motorcycle accident earlier this year scuttled a potential breakthrough appearance on the UFC 248 fight card in March.
Despite not generating the kind of buzz other new arrivals and promising up-and-comers have managed in recent years, each successful foray into the UFC cage has resulted in more and more people recognizing that the well-rounded 26-year-old has a promising future in the talent-rich featherweight division.
And finally making his North American debut should only further expedite the process.
“A fight in the USA is the perfect opportunity to make yourself known to the whole world,” said Evloev, who holds victories over SeungWoo Choi, Enrique Barzola, and Mike Grundy inside the Octagon.
“I have always believed that I can get the gold; for me, it's only a matter of time,” said Evloev regarding being recognized as a future contender in the 145-pound weight class. “The only pity is that these people have only started to understand it now.
“I will do all that is necessary,” he added when asked what he needs to do in order to stand out in such a crowded, competitive field. “I will force each and every person to acknowledge my superiority.”
His words convey the kind of self-belief it takes to excel at this level and achieve greatness on the biggest stage in the sport. And Evloev believes with every fiber of his being that he is destined for greatness in the UFC.
“This is a completely different level; this is what I was striving for,” he answered when asked to reflect on the positive takeaways from his first two years as a member of the featherweight ranks. “I am ready to play at such high stakes.
“But I do not stand in one place,” he continued. “I always change and evolve. With each fight the rates are higher and higher, and I am ready to show the best version of myself with each fight.
“After a year or two, I envision myself only with the UFC belt around my waist.”
Given the depth of talent in the featherweight division and his current position outside of the Top 15, a 12-to-24-month timeline for claiming championship gold is an ambitious goal for Evloev to set for himself.
But considering the unbridled success he’s already enjoyed and the abundance of upside he’s exhibited on the way to 13 consecutive victories, doubting he’s capable of achieving such a feat simply because of the difficulty involved doesn’t seem wise.