Muhammad Mokaev set to return from knee injury to face Tim Elliott

The crowd inside the O2 Arena in London gasped when they witnessed the excruciating sight of Muhammad Mokaev’s knee being forcefully bent backward.

During the UFC 286 event in March, Mokaev found himself trapped in a kneebar by Jafel Filho, seemingly on the verge of defeat.

The jolting sound of the joint cracking filled the air, causing some of Mokaev’s corner to shut their eyes, unable to bear the thought of their fighter’s leg breaking.

Mokaev recounts, “I heard it crack seven or eight times. Even my opponent said, ‘I heard the cracks too’.”

While experiencing tremendous pain, Mokaev’s primary concern was the unsettling feeling inside his body.

Recognizing Mokaev’s indomitable spirit, his team feared his leg would give way, knowing that he would never submit.

To everyone’s surprise, after being ensnared in the submission hold for nearly a minute, Mokaev managed to escape and eventually secured a victory in the third round.

Mokaev attributes his resilience to the difficult experiences he endured as a child, fleeing Russia with his father as a refugee hidden in a car after his mother’s passing.

“Compared to what I’ve witnessed, enduring the kneebar for 52 seconds is nothing,” Mokaev reflects.

He adds, “I would rather endure this pain for one minute inside the cage than be tapped out and lose. If my leg had broken, I was prepared. In my mind, I already believed it was broken.”

Despite suffering a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament (MCL), Mokaev rehabilitated for two months near his home in Wigan and returned to training.

Now, at 23 years old, Mokaev faces his biggest UFC challenge yet as he puts his undefeated 11-fight streak on the line against flyweight Tim Elliott at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

‘I believe I will get a title shot in 2024’

Mokaev submitted Filho in his last fight despite suffering a knee injury

Since his debut in 2022, Mokaev has won all four fights and climbed to 11th place in the UFC’s flyweight rankings.

However, facing 36-year-old Tim Elliott, who is ranked one spot above him, Mokaev encounters a former UFC title challenger and the most experienced opponent of his career.

Elliott, who made his debut in 2009, has emerged victorious in 19 of his 32 fights and contended for the UFC flyweight title against Demetrius Johnson in 2016, suffering a unanimous decision loss.

Mokaev appreciates the opportunity to fight a seasoned competitor like Elliott as previous opponents have caused him to adopt a more passive approach in the octagon.

“Elliott is a great opponent to showcase my skills because I’ve faced some less experienced fighters. In my last fight, for example, I made mistakes because I felt too comfortable in the cage,” Mokaev explains.

He continues, “That opponent didn’t challenge me and wasn’t aggressive. But Tim Elliott is the type of fighter you can catch and finish more easily than someone who is content with losing by decision.”

Mokaev believes that an impressive victory over Elliott, followed by another statement win early next year, could propel him toward a title shot in 2024.

As of now, Brazil’s Alexandre Pantoja holds the UFC flyweight belt.

“I believe one more fight after this will suffice since I will then have the longest winning streak [11] in the UFC flyweight division,” Mokaev asserts.

He concludes, “I believe the UFC will grant me the opportunity [for a title shot], but I must defeat Elliott convincingly to enter that discussion.”

The event at the Etihad Arena features a lightweight title rematch between Russian champion Islam Makhachev and Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski in the headline bout.

Featherweight titleholder Volkanovski, who stepped in as a replacement for the injured Charles Oliveira on just 12 days’ notice, aims to become a double champion after suffering a narrow loss to Makhachev in February.

In the co-main event, former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman takes on Khamzat Chimaev in a middleweight clash, while London’s Nathaniel Wood squares off against Muhammad Naimov of Tajikistan in a featherweight contest.


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