One of the biggest challenges for Tyson Jeffries heading into his fight Friday for the vacant M-1 middleweight title with Magomed Sultanakhmedov at M-1 Challenge 24 has been trying to figure out how to say his opponent's name.
"I still can't pronounce his name," Jeffries said while laughing earlier this month on Bloody Elbow Radio. "I'd butcher it if I tried."
Regardless of whether or not he can pronounce his opponent's name, this is undoubtedly the biggest fight of Jeffries' young career. He faces a fighter in Sultanakhmedov with knockout power and a lot of experience. Both earned their spot in this fight by winning their respective M-1 Selection brackets last year as Jeffries won the American side while Sultanakhmedov took the Eastern Europe bracket.
Now the two meet for the M-1 middleweight championship on M-1's first event on Showtime from Norfolk, Va.
"I'm so excited to be able to fight for M-1 for the first time ever on Showtime," Jeffries said. "It even adds more excitement knowing it's a title fight. I'm just doing everything I can to get ready. Training two to three times a day with some of the best athletes in the world. I'm just real blessed to be where I am and I'm just going to get better from here."
Jeffries, a Team Quest product, earned his spot with three wins last year. He started off with a win over Mike Johnson after Johnson sustained an eye injury. He followed that with a split decision victory against Plinio Cruz and capped off his run with a third-round submission of Mike Geurin that earned him both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors.
"That whole circuit was a good experience for me to be involved in because I had to overcome adversity in a couple of those fights," Jeffries said, noting in his fight with Cruz, he was kicked in the groin four times in the first round.
"This whole tournament was exactly where I needed to be. I needed to prove myself so I could step up and move on to bigger and better things. That tournament really opened up some doors for me."
With the three wins in the tournament, Jeffries' record now stands at 7-4. Just 22 years old, Jeffries is still growing as a fighter and his M-1 run is only adding to his confidence, which he says is "through the roof."
Jeffries is an interesting person when it comes to his views on fighting. He said he originally went to Team Quest, just a stone's throw from his home, because he wanted to be known for beating up the best. He said one class with veteran fighter Chris Wilson "totally turned (his) life around," noting the discipline involved helped him get things straight with both school and life.
"The whole reason I got involved in because I want to be the toughest guy ever. I don't want the money or anything like that," Jeffries said.
"I'm in there to win it. I'm not there to fall over, take a beating and collect a paycheck. It's not about the money, it's about going in there and putting myself in front of all those people and letting my skills show themselves."
Just talking to him, you can feel his confidence beaming through, not to mention his love for fighting. He speaks so highly of his trainers and camp, especially Lindland and Sonnen. He has big goals for himself in the future and winning the M-1 middleweight championship is just the first step.
"I didn't get into this sport to go halfway or to go part of the way," Jeffries said. "I came into this sport to go all the way. I see myself coming into the UFC and being world champ someday. I'm not going to stop until I get to it or until I get my opportunity. I don't see myself stopping anytime soon unless I die."
Bloody Elbow Radio returns to the air at 4 p.m. ET Thursday with M-1's Evgeni Kogan, Phil Baroni and Amir Sadollah. The show will be live this weekend immediately following UFC Fight Night 24 to review the show.