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Salikhov thrilled UFC debut is in "second home" of China


Muslim Salikhov (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)" align="left" />There is plenty of hype around the UFC debut of Muslim Salikhov against Alex Garcia this Saturday in Shanghai, but don’t expect the “King of Kung Fu” to be singing his own praises. In fact, if fans who don’t know of his previous fighting exploits want to know about what he brings to the table, he prefers to let their eyes – not their ears – figure it all out.

“If you check out my career you will see that I’m always looking to finish my opponents,” Salikhov said through translator Rizvan Magomedov. “That’s what I plan to do always. I never fight for points.”

He’s not exaggerating, either. As a pro in MMA, he’s 12-1 with 11 finishes (10 by knockout). In kickboxing, his reported record is 185-13-1 with 76 KOs. Yes, 185 wins, 76 by knockout.

“I don’t know how it happened,” he laughed. “I do what I love to do.”

Yet after doing pretty much everything in that world, the Dagestan native was looking for a new challenge. He found it.

“I was kind of tired of kickboxing and I found something new for me and attractive in MMA,” said the 33-year-old, who turned pro in MMA in 2011. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of flashy finishes and jaw-dropping knockouts, most recently over a pair of UFC vets, Ivan Jorge and Melvin Guillard. Yet he remained patient, focused on getting the call from the UFC when the time was right.

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“I started my career with the goal of fighting in the UFC,” he said. “That was the plan and we had a long road with tons of hard work behind that signing. I waited for it from last year when I heard that UFC was coming to China.”

Hmmm, a Dagestan native wanting nothing more than a UFC debut in China? Where did that come from? But it’s a natural wish from a fighter who not only made his name in China and became the only non-Chinese fighter to win the Wushu Sanda King’s Cup, but who was given the nickname “King of Kung Fu” for his skill in the art of Wushu Sanda, one he learned in the mountains of Dagestan at the renowned Five Directions of the World school.

“We have one of the best Wushu Sanda schools in the world,” he said. “We have a lot of world champions and Zabit Magomedsharipov is also from that school.”

Having both Salikhov and rising featherweight star Magomedsharipov on the same card is enough reason for fans to tune in to Saturday’s card, and Salikhov remembers what it’s like to be a fan, initially being attracted to martial arts by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. Now he’s back in China, a place he calls a second home, and it’s almost as if he’s going to be fighter and fan when he makes the walk to the Octagon to face Garcia.

“I was the one and only foreigner who ever became a King of Sanda in China,” he said. “Winning that openweight Grand Prix, I beat four Kings of Sanda in one night and became very famous in China. China became my second home after that. My fans love me, they gave huge support during my whole career out here and

But what about everything after November 25? How does he top this?

“You know,” he smiles, “The soldier who doesn’t want to become General is a bad soldier. My goal is the UFC belt. I always set a high goal in front of me, and I know that it’s not gonna be easy, but it’s my time.”