by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Mamed Khalidov may have been an underdog the first time when he stepped in the ring with Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago, but now he’s the favorite after winning a non-title affair between the two fighters. This time he’s hoping to have gold around his waist when the night is over.

Fighting out of Poland as part of KSW under Martin Lewandowski, Khalidov has been considered a top prospect in the sport for some time, but after knocking out Santiago a few months ago he’s taking the main stage at Sengoku Raiden Championships 12 on Sunday.

Primed for the title shot just days away, Khalidov is proving he’s a cerebral fighter who won’t play into the notion that the first fight against Santiago should have been for the title. He’s ready to beat him again though to take the belt this time.

“No, I did not feel disappointed at all,” he said when asked about the first fight against Santiago being a non-title affair.

While some fighters would feel danger in facing the same opponent twice in back-to-back fights, Khalidov shrugs that off and believes preparation is the key to this one.

“I do not see this as a danger. It has happened to me for the first time that I have to fight with the same opponent fight after fight,” Khalidov commented. “I had little time to prepare last time. For this fight definitely I had enough of it to prepare properly, (and) other aspects of trainings or preparation stays the same.”

Sengoku champion Jorge Santiago has said coming into this rematch he will take his opponent more seriously, which could denote some level of disrespect to the Polish fighter, but Khalidov says it’s just excuses.

“I do not know if that (is) a sign of disrespect. I do not know Santiago so much, but I know one thing that people (always) try to explain the failure,” said Khalidov.

Winning the Sengoku middleweight title is a major accomplishment, and the KSW fighter knows what that will mean for his career, but he also knows the obstacle that stands in his way in the form of Jorge Santiago is a formidable force.

“It will be a big success for me personally and I cannot say how it will influence my career, but first I need to gain this title,” he told MMAWeekly.com.

The team around the Poland based Khalidov also understand that Santiago may have somehow looked past their fighter the first time, but it’s going to be a tough fight to win twice in a row.

“I am sure Santiago will be not only fully prepared for this fight, but also mentally psyched with this opportunity for revenge,” said Shu Hirata, manager for Team KSW in the U.S. and Asia. “But in their last encounter, the fight only lasted a few minutes, so I think Santiago and the entire world are still yet to see the best of Mamed Khalidov.”

Khalidov’s trainer and owner of KSW, Martin Lewandowski, also believes that Santiago’s time as champion has expired, and his fighter’s reign is about to begin.

“Mamed feels very much okay with this fight. He respects the opponent and trains very hard as usually. It will be real war,” Lewandowski said. “Santiago can lose everything what he achieved during his career, (and) for Mamed it will be the beginning of a new era. I believe also he will be the first one who spread good word of KSW Team fighters.”

The two middleweights will battle it out this weekend in Sengoku with Santiago’s title belt on the line.