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Top flyweight Magomed Bibulatov sets sights on UFC title following Akhmat Grand Prix

Karim Zidan spoke to Russia's top flyweight, Magomed Bibulatov, about his UFC aspirations and the significance behind Ramzan Kadyrov's MMA involvement.

At the start of 2016, the World Fighting Championships of Akhmat (WFCA) compiled an extensive list of foreign fighters to form various Grand Prix tournaments against their scores of Chechen fighters. Fighter such as Desmond Green, Kurt Holobaugh, Thiago Silva and Paulo Thiago were flown over to Grozny for the opening rounds of their respective tournaments. However, the crowning jewel of the first show was WSOF flyweight champion Magomed Bibulatov.

Bibulatov, fresh of a victory in the United States, returned to his native Chechnya to take part in the flyweight tournament. His opening match was against Irmeson Oliveira, whom he defeated in the show's main event by unanimous decision. His semi-final match-up against Jarred Brooks will take place on May 22n.

"I have a good opponent for my next fight," Bibulatov told BloodyyElbow. "Impressive wrestler, and with such a competitor it is difficult to have a fight. But I tell you, I faced stronger opponents and I have defeated them."

Though he technically has two fights remaining on his WSOF contract, Bibulatov made it evidently clear that his focus in 2016 is to win the Akhmat flyweight Grand Prix and then set his sights on the UFC.

"I really want to test myself in the UFC," Magomed said. "I hope to perform there in 2017. Currently, my main purpose is to win the belt in the Akhmat League."

Many pundits have anointed Bibulatov as one of the few flyweights who could pose a legitimate threat to UFC champion Demetrious Johnson. While Magomed would not dispute that, he revealed that it is far too premature to discuss strategies against the champion of another organization.

"It's too early to talk about the fight with the champion of the UFC. I can fight even today but in order to win it will take a lot of work."

Bibulatov is one of the many Russian prospects that hail from Chechnya, a republic that embodies a culture and spirit that has frequently brought it into conflict with ethnic Russia. Violence that began in the time of Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible in Western literature), resumed during Peter the Great's reign, and finally appeared to end following the Second Chechen War during Putin's era, created a proud and aggressive people hardened by war.

In an attempt to redirect youngsters from Islamic fundamentalism, local governments focused on funding sporting events such as wrestling and sambo tournaments. MMA eventually became one of the sports that emerged following the end of conflict between the Chechen Republic and the Kremlin. This was also due to Ramzan Kadyrov, who emerged as the republic's leader following the conflict.

While known in Western media as a dictator with a bloody past, Chechen fighters praised Kadyrov for his pivotal role in the development of combat sports in the North Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya.

"The main sports fan of the republic is Ramzan Kadyrov. He provides comprehensive support for the Chechen athletes and so, we have everything we need to achieve the best results in MMA."

Kadyrov's involvement includes the development of an enormous training facility for Chechen fighters, as well as the creation of his own MMA promotion, WFCA (also known as Akhmat MMA). Despite his political career, Kadyrov attends MMA shows in Chechnya, especially if they involve some of his favorite fighters like Bibulatov.

"I have a very good relationship with the head of our country, Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov," Bibulatov explained. "I have achieved such results in this sport because of him. Wherever I perform, he always supports me. I am proud that I have such a brother."