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Nazim Sadykhov of Russia poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on February 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)


DWCS Grad Nazim Sadykhov Wants To Show He’s A Future Contender With A Strong Outing Against Terrance McKinney On Saturday

If Nazim Sadykhov’s sophomore appearance inside the Octagon this weekend was a Hollywood movie, the tagline would be something along the lines of “Vengeance is coming for Terrance McKinney, and its name is Nazim Sadykhov.”

The poster would be all blues and greys and shadows — McKinney in the foreground, looking over his shoulder, a larger, menacing Sadykhov centered in the frame — with the film’s title, Black Wolf, splashed across the bottom of the glossy image in deep crimson.

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Anyone that has enjoyed anything from the “Liam Neeson is After Someone” collection over the last decade would be tapping in to watch that gritty revenge flick, and it would likely do reasonably well against its indie-flick budget.

One problem: Sadykhov isn’t really looking for vengeance this weekend; just an impressive performance that shows he’s the next fighter from Longo and Weidman MMA with championship aspirations and upside in the UFC.

“It’s been the conversation on Twitter, like ‘Get this one back for ‘SteamRolla!’ Get this one back for Matt! Let’s go!’” Sadykhov said when asked about the pairing with McKinnney, who defeated his teammate, Matt Frevola, in seven seconds a couple summers ago. “It’s a good convo to have on social media, but I don’t have some sort of anger towards Terrance McKinney like, ‘He beat Matt, now I have to beat him.’

Nazim Sadykhov comemora a vitória no Dana White's Contender Series. (Foto por Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Nazim Sadykhov of Russia reacts after knocking out Ahmad Hassanzada of Afghanistan in a lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season six, week four at UFC APEX on August 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“I have to beat him regardless of if he beat Matt or not, and Matt’s doing perfectly fine on his own,” he correctly added, as Frevola has earned three straight first-round stoppage wins since that setback to climb into the Top 15 in the lightweight division.

“Even if I tried to get myself there, I can’t,” continued Sadykhov, who earned a third-round stoppage win over Evan Elder in his promotional debut earlier this year. “I’m a professional — I don’t need any sort of motivation to want to come forward and take somebody’s head off. I don’t need to psych myself up for revenge or to go out there and want to be as impressive as possible — I’m going to go out there and get the job done regardless of revenge…but the backstory is going to be a nice little thing for fans to discuss.”

The thing about backstories like this one is that regardless of how Sadykhov feels about McKinney and the revenge narrative is that fans have latched onto it, and that means people will be tuning in as he makes the walk to the Octagon for the second time.

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And with all eyes on he and the highly regarded McKinney, the 29-year-old from Brooklyn, by way of Baku, Azerbaijan, will get the opportunity to introduce himself to a wider audience, which is all he’s wanted since touching down on the biggest stage in the sport, and why he’s critical of his debut win over Elder.

“I was happy that I got to put on the Fight of the Night,” said Sadykhov, leading off with a positive before briefly touching on a couple elements he wasn’t particularly satisfied with heading into and coming out of his February victory. “I have a bunch of criticism of myself, of my own performance and what I could have done better, how I could have prepared better, but that’s what led me to have a much better camp this time around and, God-willing, it will be a much better performance this time around.

Nazim Sadykhov of Russia kicks Evan Elder in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Nazim Sadykhov of Russia kicks Evan Elder in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“I would say on the defensive end, a little less of just coming forward and more of my in-and-out movement, which I usually do and I’m better at,” he responded when pressed for more specifics regarding improvements he sought to make following the fight with Elder, adding that while there were some health struggles that limited him last time around, it’s been smooth sailing ahead of this one.

“Having the experience of the first fight behind me, I’m already stepping into the UFC Octagon for a second time with much better eyes.”

In addition to having his own first-hand experience, Sadykhov benefits from training with a collection of elite talents, including Frevola, and the bantamweight tag team of champion Aljamain Sterling and No. 1 contender Merab Dvalishvili.

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We often talk about how training with good fighters and experienced fighters is one of the best ways for an athlete to level-up their game, and Sadykhov gets the opportunity to do that with not one, not two, but three elite UFC talents, the value of which isn’t lost on him, even if he doesn’t always recognize his long-time friends as the standout competitors that are.

“Just seeing these guys competing and being able to help them, even without their help — just seeing what Aljo is doing, same thing with Frevola and all these other guys,” began Sadykhov, struggling to find the words to express how much of an impact being on the mats with the other Serra-Longo Fight Team standouts has had on him. “Sometimes I forget that they’re not just my friends, but they’re world champions, and Top 15, Top 10, Top 5.

“There are guys out there in the UFC today that would be lucky to have even one guy that is in the UFC whose career they can guide off of, let alone the best talents in the world; let alone Top 15 guys, your top training partner, your friend being a world champion and your other friend being (ranked) No. 1.

Nazim Sadykhov of Russia reacts after his victory over Evan Elder in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Nazim Sadykhov of Russia reacts after his victory over Evan Elder in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“You forget these things, but when I do sit back and think about this stuff, I am totally grateful, and it is a huge, huge boost and a huge advantage.”


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He believes that advantage, coupled with the skills, talents, and focus he naturally carries with him into each and every fight will allow him to rule the day when he steps in with McKinney this weekend.

“It’s a guaranteed banger, and that’s what excites me the most,” he said of the pairing with McKinney, who has gone 3-2 over his first five UFC starts to move to 13-5 for his career heading into this one. “I know he’s dangerous in many areas — you don’t get 13 wins and 13 finishes with luck.

“I’m perfectly aware that he’s dangerous, I just know that wherever he’s dangerous, I’m more dangerous. I know that my style can overwhelm his style.

“This fight is going to come down to who is making better decisions in the Octagon — who has the higher IQ, who has more heart, more will to win — and I’m looking to test that with this man on July 15.”

And long-term, the exciting UFC sophomore wants to put himself in the same position as his teammates: stationed in the rankings, residing in the Top 5, and if everything works out in his favor, standing atop the lightweight division.

“I don’t want to just be an exciting guy, which is why I criticize myself for the last fight,” began Sadykhov, laying out his overall vision for his career. “I’m not going to be just an exciting guy that comes forward and be exciting for the sake of excitement. I’m exciting as is, but I want to be a world-class fighter and I’m going to show that I’m a world-class fighter and in the title conversation very soon.

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“I want to separate myself,” he added, bringing the focus back to this weekend. “I want to walk away with a victory on July 15 and for the MMA world to be saying, ‘This guy is going to be in the mix for a title run and the championship in the near future.’ That’s what I want to establish on July 15.”

Black Wolf hits the Octagon this weekend.

Get your popcorn ready.

UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Bueno Silva took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 15, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!