Marat Gafurov is set to make the third defense of his featherweight title at ONE: Quest for Greatness on Friday. The Russian brings a 15-0 record into his rematch with Martin Nguyen, but is adamant that, despite enjoying a stellar career, there is nothing remarkable about him.
“I’ve learned that a regular guy like me from a village who started training late and didn’t have any special ability or help can still achieve something and be successful,” he said.
Gafurov has already faced Nguyen once. In 2015, the Australian stepped up as a late replacement when the then featherweight champion Narantungalag Jadambaa was refused entry by Indonesian immigration.
It was an easy night’s work for the Russian, who prevailed by submission in under a minute. This time Nguyen has had time to prepare specifically for him, but Gafurov doesn’t think it will make any difference.
“Nguyen was a substitute, but he was ready. I wanted to strike with him, but he decided to grapple and you all saw the result.”
The result in question was a rear-naked choke. Gafurov has finished all six of his ONE Championship fights with this submission, but says it’s not something he necessarily looks for in a fight.
However, Gafurov won’t be surprised if this is the submission which scores him the 15th win of his professional career in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
“Nguyen is a good fighter and has potential, but I don’t think he’s on my level. This fight is going to be exactly like the first one, it will end the same.”
Last time Gafurov fought Nguyen, the Russian had prepared to face a completely different fighter. But he says the identity of his opponent doesn’t have that much impact on the preparation process.
“I haven’t done any specific adjustments for that fight.”
He also feels that there is room for improvement on his end which is something of a surprise given that he won the first fight in 41 seconds.
“Maybe I was a little disappointed because it was a very fast fight. I wanted to use more of my striking, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Gafurov has the confidence and composure you would expect from a multiple time champion who has never tasted defeat. He knows Nguyen has a chance to prepare for him second time around, but doesn’t see the outcome being affected.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a big difference.”
The loss to Gafurov is the sole blip on Nguyen’s record. The Australian is a hungry contender who has finished every fighter he has ever faced, apart from the Russian, and more often than not done it in under a round.
In MMA, no champion retires undefeated. Historically speaking, there seems to always come a time when a younger fighter will prevail, but for Gafurov that day has yet to arrive and the 32-year-old expects to register win number 16 in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
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