A new Russian hope: See the skills that earned Khabib's teammate Tagir Ulanbekov a UFC contract (VIDEO)
As one of the select few fighters to take part in Khabib Nurmagomedov's isolated training camp in the build-up to the lightweight champion's canceled appearance at UFC 249, Tagir Ulanbekov's qualities are well known to the fighting dynasty with whom he has spent much of his burgeoning MMA career.
As well as for Russia's most illustrious UFC fighter, Ulanbekov is a key figure in training camps for Khabib's unbeaten cousins, Usman and Abdulatip, and a fierce protege of his father, Abdulmanap, who has guided much of his career.
Known for his submission victories, Ulanbekov fought three times in a year for only the second time last year, winning the Gorilla Fighting Championship flyweight crown with a second-round submission win over Denis Araujo.
His successful defense of his title in December, when he beat Denilson Matos with a guillotine choke to record another second-round victory, continued to erase the memory of his only defeat in his 11 fights since starting out in 2013.
Crazy scene in the cage after the co-main event. Tagir Ulanbekov's corner and friends rush to congratulate the victor! pic.twitter.com/p0Mks4rcrH— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) October 8, 2017
That highly contentious majority decision setback in 2018 was against Kazakh fighter Zhalgas Zhumagulov, who also joined the UFC earlier this year having formerly been signed to Russian promotion company Fight Nights Global.
"I and my team do not consider this a defeat," Ulanbekov declared in the aftermath of a verdict that infuriated his team and was considered a robbery by many viewers.
"It is already in the past – I've already forgotten about it.
"I realized that you need to end the fight ahead of time and not rely on the judges."
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As well as his five submission wins, flyweight Ulanbekov has one knockout on his record, with decisions going his way four times.
He has admitted to feeling the weight of expectation as part of a team guided by Nurmagomedov senior, whose shouts of "strike" can be heard from his corner.
Ulanbekov wasted no time in praising his coach's influence on his life and career after the announcement of his UFC contract, expressing his longing for Khabib's father to recover from the serious health problems he is currently facing.
"In many ways, I am what I am today thanks to this person," he reflected, posting a photo to his Instagram following of more than 152,000 showing Abdulmanap embracing him in the octagon.
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Ассаламу алейкум! Во многом, благодаря этому человеку сегодня я являюсь тем, кем я являюсь! Я помню каким я пришёл к нему и что он сделал для меня лично! Этот человек вложил в меня и в мою маленькую семью очень много труда, времени и нервов! Да исцелит вас Всевышний наилучшим образом, Абдулманап Магомедович ❤️Амин ______ Спасибо всем за поздравления и приятные слова поддержки! Отдельно хотел бы поблагодарить моих старших братьев - @rizvan_magomedov и @aliabdelaziz000 вы лучшие своём деле @dominance_mma 👍
"I remember how I came to him and what he did for me personally.
"This man put a lot of work, time and nerves into me and my little family. May the Almighty heal you in the best way, Abdulmanap."