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MMA Prospect Profile: WSOF Bantamweight Contender, Timur Valiev

Iain MacMillan

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Name: Timur “Lucky” Valiev
Weightclass: Bantamweight (135 lbs)
Current Promotion: World Series of Fighting
Affiliation: Dagestani Fighter Club and Jackson-Wink MMA
Record: 10-1
Most Recent Fight: Win (UD) vs. Tito Jones at WSOF 23, September 18th, 2015
Next Fight: vs. Chris Gutierrez at WSOF 28, February 20th, 2016

Last week, we took a look at the Dagestani belt holder with ONE Championship, Marat Gafurov. This week we stay in the Republic of Dagestan to talk with and about yet another highly ranked prospect from the Russian MMA hot bed. Timur Valiev has been on a 10 fight tear through the Bantamweight division since losing in his professional debut back in 2010. His impressive streak includes 4 KO/TKO and 1 Submission. He began his electrifying stint with the World Series of Fighting with a bang when he TKO’d Adam Acquaviva with a flying knee at WSOF 10. Since then, he has won three additional bouts and is seemingly one win away from his shot at WSOF gold.
His upcoming fight vs. Chris Gutierrez (8-1-1) is a pivotal fight in Valiev’s career as it’s clearly his toughest fight since signing on with the promotion, but if successful, the dominant champion in Marlon Moraes will be waiting for him. A fight with Moraes may bring personal challenges to Valiev since they have become good friends and training partners since Valiev has begun to occasionally train Ricardo Almeida’s gym. He hopes that one of them will be signed to the UFC soon so that they will be able avoid fighting each other but if the fight does get scheduled, Valiev is well prepared for the challenge. He has a long history in martial arts as he is a three time Russian Unifight Champion, Russian Pankration Champion, and European Pankration Champion.
He will need all of his skill sets and knowledge that he has acquired if does end up challenging Moraes for the WSOF belt, as he has proven to be one of the top fighters in the world outside of the UFC. One point in Valiev’s favor is that he trains at one of the very best gyms in the world in Jackson-Wink MMA. As always, I got the chance to ask the WSOF Contender a few questions, and he did not disappoint.

MMA Latest News: You have a fight coming up at WSOF 28 vs. Chris Gutierrez. How much of a challenge do you think he will be for you? How do you see the matchup going?

Timur Valiev: Chris Gutierrez is a young, talented fighter. I think he has a very bright future and he will go very far, but I think I am much better in all of the aspects of the game. I am not sure how the fight is going to go, but I can promise that I will be very aggressive and will go for the finish.

MMALN: You’ve won 10 fights in a row including all 4 since being signed by WSOF. How far away do you believe you are from a title shot against current champion Marlon Moraes? Will a win in your next fight secure that title shot for you?

TV: I consider Marlon Moraes as one of the best bantamweights in the world and his place is in UFC amongst the best in the world, and he needs to go after that UFC title. Marlon and I are good friends and we train together when I come to do my training camps at Ricardo Almeida’s. We really don’t want to fight each other and I hope this situation plays out to our advantage.

MMALN: Is there someone that you looked up to early in your career and possibly modeled your style after?

TV: Since my early years and before I got into MMA, my role model was always my brother UFC fighter Rustam Khabilov. The most interesting styles for me are those of Frankie Edgar, Carlos Condit, and Jon Jones. I take some things from their styles and adapt to my own, but in general my style is totally mine and different from anyone elses.

MMALN: You’re one of the many successful MMA fighters from Dagestan. What is it about the Republic of Dagestan that makes such good fighters? What do you attribute your success to so far?

TV: We are only the first wave of MMA fighters from Dagestan region, but as you would know Dagestan has always produced some of the most dominant Olympic and World level wrestlers and fighters from other martial arts. MMA just arrived to Dagestan not too long ago and it is one of the most popular sports in the region. Soon our fighters will dominate the sport like we do in other combat sports.
I attribute my success to the support of my Coach from Dagestan Fighter club Mansyr Uchakaev, and having the ability to train at Jackson Wink MMA Academy and Ricardo Almeida’s fight team. They put a lots effort into my development and always pay close attention to my well being while I train in America.

MMALN: Where do you see yourself ranked among the fighters in your weight class across the world?

TV: Right now I consider myself as one of the best bantamweights in the world and soon you will see why.

MMALN: What are your short term and long term goals in the sport?

TV: I always set high goals for myself, either long term or short term, but now my only goal is to beat Chris Gutierrez, and to beat him convincingly.

MMALN: What has been the toughest challenge for you so far? Is there a dream fight against any fighter that you’d love to have?

TV: Some of the toughest fights I had were in Russia, but the most nervous and challenging time for me was when debuting for World Series of Fighting. At that time I did not fight for a year and I was a bit rusty, but I was able to overcome my anxiety and show a very interesting fight.
I don’t really have a dream match, but if anything, it would be a fight for a title in the best MMA organization at that time.

I’d like to thank Timur Valiev for taking the time to give us some very insightful answers as well as a look into his life as a Dagestani Mixed Martial Artist. Please follow him on Twitter at @timurvaliev_df, and keep an eye out for him on the upcoming WSOF 28 card that takes place next month as he takes on Chris Gutierrez.
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Dana White gives update on Conor McGregor and the lightweight division

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The top end of the UFC’s lightweight division is thriving. Dustin Poirer defeated former division champion Anthony Pettis, in dominant fashion. Tony Ferguson won the lightweight division’s interim title by carving Kevin Lee from his back. Safe to say, no everyday person would ever want to see Khabib Nurmagomedov down a damp and dark alley. Don’t forget, the gutsy performance of Eddie Alvarez stealing Justin Gaethje’s undefeated record away.  The division is thriving like gas attempting to escape a shaken champagne bottle.

On Friday, UFC President, Dana White, spoke to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, about a number of topics. One, which came up fairly quickly; Conor McGregor and his stranglehold on the lightweight belt. The pair began talking about recent performances inside the octagon when the illustrious name of, Khabib Nurmagomedov, came up. White claimed, “Conor always finds a way to win. When he hits you, you go…”. Then speaking of the potential bout between Nurmagomedov and McGregor, “I love that matchup but, Tony Ferguson is the interim champion. Conor and I haven’t really figured out when he’s coming back and what’s going on…”. He continued, “I don’t think Conor wants to fight until August, but if he waits until August or September, that’s around two years since the belt has been defended and that can’t happen”.

Iole followed up by asking, due to circumstances, does McGregor owe it to the sport to defend his title? The UFC president agreed, “And to the other fighters. Not only to the sport but, to the other fighters. This is a game of time… when you’re a professional athlete, time is your enemy and we can’t let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity. Tony Ferguson has been around for a long time and has earned his dues, Khabib has earned his dues… Conor has done very well, he’s made a lot of money, and if he decides that he doesn’t want to fight again for another however long that’s up to him… but, the belt has to move on… we gotta figure some stuff out here in the next couple months”.

It only makes sense that the UFC wants progression in the one-hundred and fifty-five lb. division. Even without their massive revenue generator, the division must move on. Athletes like Nurmagomedov may be relatively unknown outside the MMA community in the United States but, his official Instagram page holds 3.2 million followers.  While Tony Ferguson may not hold online notoriety, he does have an exciting style. A style that could win a good many of fans, the more exposure he receives.

For White, one of these two men must fight for the division’s championship title. When asked about what is next, he stated, “As long as Conor is willing to fight by March, we could do Khabib versus Tony and then the winner fights Conor… or Conor doesn’t wanna fight and wants to sit out till next fall. Then we would have to make Khabib vs. Tony for the title”.

Time can be the only truth serum in this particular situation. The UFC brass has spoken of forcing McGregor to vacate his lightweight title for some time. Yet, nothing has happened. On the other hand, it would be more than surprising to see the division’s belt sit on the shelf for another year. Considering it all, including the status of contenders and depth of the division, the bottleneck created by one man never ceases to amaze.

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Exclusive: Neil Magny: “It’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail”

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On Saturday, December 30th, Neil Magny steps back into the Octagon as he takes on the returning Carlos Condit. Magny’s had a rough past couple of months as the 6’3 welterweight has alternated wins and losses as well as fighting a lot less than usual. Magny was known as one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster until injuries started to take away from his time in the cage.

Welcoming Magny back to the cage is a man who is also making his return after a long layoff, Carlos Condit. Fans and even Magny have been waiting a long time for the fight to come together.

I love this fight, this a fight I’ve been chasing for nearly two years now,” Magny told MMA Latest. “The fight’s going to be happening this Saturday and I’m excited for it.”

Condit hasn’t competed since he lost to Demian Maia back in August 2016. The Jackson-Wink product lost via first round rear-naked choke, the loss prompted a semi-retirement that left everyone unsure if he would ever return. The time spent away from the cage could potentially bring upon the universally hated “ring-rust”.

Not at all,” Magny said as he shot down any talks of ring-rust. “I mean, if anything, I would be more affected by ring rust than he is. I mean, I’m a guy who likes to compete all throughout the years. This is the least amount of fights I’ve had in a year- in awhile- I don’t think the ring rust will be a factor at all and I can’t let that allow me to think that this fight will be easier because of that.”

With Condit’s return being the big story in this fight, it’s easy to think Magny’s been swept under the rug. The fan-favorite has been loved for his tendency to turn every fight into a brawl and putting everything on the line. The hype and excitement haven’t lead Magny to believe he’s being overlooked.

Not all,” Magny says with a shrug. “I don’t feel like I’m being overlooked in this fight at all. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of hype around Condit going into this fight. But yeah I don’t consider it a bad thing at all. I know I’m focused on what I need to do and I spend most of my time focusing on that rather than the other possibilities or what media attention is drawn to that kind of thing.”

Condit’s tendency to turn his fights into brawls is something Magny’s comfortable with, as technique and advantages tend to fly out the window. The Colorado native is honest about where his strengths are.

This is a fight where it’s going to be a fight and turn into a brawl and were going to fight tooth and nail,” Magny said. “Going into this fight I don’t have the grappling advantage, the submission advantage, I don’t have the significant striking advantage. So anywhere this fight goes it’s not going to be one guy just outclassing the other guy. I know it’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail or anything that will win this fight. So that’s something that I’m looking forward to the most- going out there and allowing this fight to go down successfully.”

Magny’s rough patch continued in his last fight when he lost to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos by submission. While a good chunk of fighters have a tendency to dwell on losses, Magny’s moved on and, more importantly, he’s learned from his mistakes.

I could backtrack and pick the fight apart and find a thousand things I did wrong and things I could’ve done differently,” Magny begin to explain. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of the fight, all I can do is make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for this fight. That’s what I’ve been spending my time focusing on as well as covering every angle going into this fight mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everything I need to do to be successful in this fight I’ll do it.”

Although Magny’s moved on from the loss, that hasn’t stopped him from making changes in his lead up to fights.

Since my last fight one of the main things I changed in my training camp was the use of a sports physiatrist,” Magny said. “I noticed for these last four fights I got myself into tough positions all three have been lackluster fights that I wasn’t too proud of. Coming into this fight we’ll be sure to work on all angles and we’ll see if the talks and working with a sports physiologist will make a difference. I have no idea but the thing about it is that I want to be as prepared as possible.”

Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman claimed that Magny was going to fight him, that is until Magny accepted the fight with Condit.

No, nothing was ever set for Usman and I to ever fight,” Magny said. “I was in a position where I was coming off a loss and it didn’t matter who I fought next. I was just eager to get that nasty taste out of my mouth from the last fight. So he’s done his usual call me out on Twitter call me out on Instagram wherever he could I was just like ‘meh whatever, if you really want to fight me I’m available, I’m interested in doing it right away’ so why not take the matchup sooner and get the taste out of my mouth.”

Although the fight with Usman isn’t happening, the fight with Condit definitely is. So what does Magny predict?

I see me going out there and just winning any way I see,” Magny said. “Whether its a decision where we go back and forth and go all out war, or me getting the TKO, submission, or knockout. I mean, I’m just looking forward to going out there and getting my hand raised.”

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UFC 219’s Dan Hooker: Fighting in Perth Would Be an “Ideal Situation.”

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New Zealander Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker is somewhat of a UFC veteran these days. On the 30th December Hooker will make his eighth UFC appearance, facing Marc Diakiese at UFC 219 in Las Vegas.

The card is a marquee event with some of the biggest names in the sport competing, but Hooker isn’t letting the magnitude of the event affect his preparation.

“It’s something you can look back on tell people you fought on a big card in Las Vegas, so it’s a milestone,” the Kiwi explained. “But when you’re focused on it you have to take every fight as just another fight. You can’t let the moment overwhelm you, or distract you.”

Hooker admitted to not knowing much about his opponent, Englishman, Diakiese, when the fight was announced. “I hadn’t seen him fight before we got matched, but he’s a big name in the UK so I’m looking forward to it”

Twenty-seven year old Hooker is just happy to fight. He had planned on fighting in Sydney this past November. “I had an infection in my knee which ruled me out of Sydney. I’m glad they can get me on [a card] before the end of the year.”

The Kiwi last fought at home on the UFC Auckland card in June, defeating veteran Ross Pearson with a devastating knee that KO’d his foe in round two. A fight that proved he belonged with the best in the world.

“It’s where I believe my skills are at. I’m showing everyone else what I know I’m capable of,” he said of the fight. “I think I’m capable of much more so I’m looking forward to getting back in there and doing it all again.”

The Pearson bout was Hooker’s first in the UFC’s lightweight division, having fought his first six bouts at featherweight, ten pounds below at 145 pounds. Hooker now intends to make 155 his home, and isn’t concerned about size difference.

“I’m not going back to 145, 155 is where it’s at. I’m more likely to go up than down,” Hooker said. “I just feel my skills have caught up, even if someone is carrying more size than me, I can beat them with my skill.”

There has been scrutiny in recent times due to weight cutting in the sport and new rules have been implemented by the UFC and various commissions to make to process safer. But not much is different, according to Hooker.

“It hasn’t changed anything. The bigger guys are still here and still cutting the same amount of weight.” Hooker also expressed his concern that more divisions would do more harm than good.

“You might get the opposite effect where guys are coming down even further, thinking its not ten pounds of weight, it’s only five pounds. Everyone needs to move up a weight class and fight at their natural weight. Lifestyle wise and longevity wise it’s going to pay off.”

A big reason why 155 is where it’s at is because of Conor McGregor. McGregor is currently the champion in Hooker’s division, yet he has been inactive for over a year and shows no signs in returning any time soon. Hooker isn’t holding his breath on the prospect of the Irishman fighting again.

“I’m not getting off the couch with a 100 million dollars in the bank, I’ll tell you that. I’ve never seen a fat lion running around chasing antelope in the desert, it just doesn’t happen,” Hooker joked.

While Hooker doesn’t see the UFC stripping McGregor anytime soon, he’s indifferent about the use of interim belts in the UFC. Tony Ferguson is the current interim champion in the lightweight division and Hooker thinks he should be next in line.

“The UFC have offered Tony [Ferguson] to defend his interim title. Defending an interim title is where I draw the line. It should be your golden ticket to a title shot, or don’t hand it out”

Interim titles aside, the stage is set for the New Zealander at UFC 219 in front of a large global audience. He aims to make his way up the lightweight ladder towards a prestigious top 15 spot on the roster.

Hooker is one of a few New Zealand based fighters making a run in the UFC. Shane Young made his debut this year, as did Luke Jumeau. Both often train alongside Hooker at City Kickboxing in Auckland. Hooker also suggested that the undefeated striker, Israel Adesanya will be next Kiwi fighter to join the UFC roster.

“The New Zealand market has quite a big talent pool and we’re able to get multiple New Zealand fighters in the UFC. It’s a really good sign.”

As for 2018, Hooker isn’t looking too far ahead as the nature of the sport of MMA means an injury can be just around the corner. If Hooker does come out unscathed – and victorious – then he has a plan in mind.

“I’d like to fight as soon as possible. I’d like to catch up to the Aussies and New Zealanders who got to fight in Sydney and will be fighting in Perth. If I can catch up in Perth then that would be the ideal situation.”

The Perth card would certainly make sense for Hooker. A win against Diakiese would give him his first win streak of his UFC career and set him up for even bigger fights in 2018. For now, Hooker is focused on his English opponent and ending his year on a high.

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