“No one will take care of my sick son but me.” 40-year-old Russian fighter feels like he’s 26, wants to win three UFC fights

“No one will take care of my sick son but me.” 40-year-old Russian fighter feels like he’s 26, wants to win three UFC fights

Muslim Salikhov made his UFC debut in November 2017, after gaining huge popularity in China thanks to his performances in wushu sanda tournaments. Salikhov is an example of a Russian athlete who is better known abroad than at home. How else to explain a crazy story when a fan comes from China asked him to give it…at least one sock.

Salikhov’s UFC career was difficult. As often happens, even expert striking techniques proved difficult to add to the fight. Salikhov could have very well won in the stands, but in ten fights he suffered four defeats. A decent result, if not for the standard high bar in MMA for Russian athletes. In 2024, at the age of 39, Salikhov suffered a second consecutive defeat and after the fight, amid questions about his retirement, he wrote the following post on social networks:

“The path of a warrior is the path of victories and defeats! There is no other option here. To all those who say it is time for me to stop, I want to say: no one will take care of me, my family and my sick son except me. So my friends, thank you for the advice, but I will continue to do what I know how to do. “I want to thank the UFC for the opportunity to perform and make money at the highest level.”

A few months later, Muslim fought with 37-year-old Argentinian Santiago Ponzinibbio. On June 9, the Russian fighter turned 40. And now we ask him:

“We ate Khinkalchik and that’s it”

— On June 9th, you turned 40. I know birthdays are not celebrated in Islam, but how was your day?

— I did two training sessions, as usual.

“Anyway, did anyone congratulate you, did anyone say anything?”

– No, we have people in Dagestan who usually have normal “days”. And many people wrote to me, it’s just that I didn’t have anything special at home. Mom came, but she lives next door to me, my brother came, we had dinner, ate khinkalchik, and that’s it. An ordinary day, nothing special.

– How do you feel?

– At 26 years old.

— Alexander Shlemenko celebrated his 40th birthday a few weeks before you and often says in interviews that age has no meaning. Could it be that you watched some of his videos and that motivated you?

— Honestly, I haven’t seen a single interview about this, but in fact it’s true, the main thing is how you feel. If you’re 40, it makes a difference how you live. If you live badly, you allow a lot of alcohol, relax, don’t train, then it’s one thing. If a person lives like me, gets up in the morning and goes to training every day, and I did it at 25 and now I do it every day except Sunday, then there’s no problem. You can stay in shape.

— You have two defeats in a row. Provided you are already an experienced fighter, is it really possible to change anything in such a situation in training?

– Of course, when you suffer a defeat, you still need to work on your mistakes. Not even in terms of training, but just thinking about what went wrong in the fight. I myself understand the cause of the injuries, in both cases I was sick, there were antibiotics. Before the fight with Dalby (June 17, 2023, lost by decision of the judges. – ), he caught a staph infection. I had already lost weight for the fight with Brown, but he refused the fight. The fight was postponed for a month and a half, but you can’t keep this shape all the time. And at that time there was some kind of serious infection in Las Vegas, and I caught it too. I was sick for three weeks and could not come to my senses. I had to take antibiotics. We are in America, it is very difficult to get treatment here, it is not like at home: you cannot go to the pharmacy, you cannot buy the medicines you need. Here they do not treat people differently: they immediately start giving antibiotics.

— Is your endurance deteriorating significantly?

— Endurance suffers a lot. And the general condition is such that if you are 100% fit, then you fall back to 50% somewhere. I’m not looking for excuses, I lost in both cases, no questions asked. But since you asked.

— After the second lost fight, you wrote a post on social networks, in which there was the phrase “no one will take care of my sick son except me”. Do you want to tell me what happened?

“Now everything is fine, health-wise, everything is fine, he still doesn’t sleep at night and doesn’t speak yet. There are still problems. From the age of two, I took him to different hospitals. Now he doesn’t need hospitals or doctors, he just needs speech therapists and some neurological problems to correct. Development has stopped, we need to restore it.

– Is it something with the heart or something else?

– No, not the heart. Consider everything fine now.

— Did it cost you a lot of money?

“Almost all my fees went into that.” Sure, I built the house, but I don’t have any fancy machines. All the money went into that.

– What about nerves? Have you ever come to training and realized in your head that you are not in the gym, but with a child?

— Nothing affects my training. I always do my best.

“The first week here, I couldn’t get my bearings”

— You usually prepared in Florida, but now you arrived in Denver four weeks before the tournament. Because the height is high?

– Yes, yes, it is precisely because of the height that I came here early. Here, at 1600 meters, is the lowest point of the city. The first week of my arrival, I could not come to my senses at all. It is very difficult to breathe, a kind of incomprehensible condition. Now I am completely used to it, but it is good to have arrived early.

— Your opponent also trained in Florida. Have you met?

– Yes, of course, our paths crossed, we are from the same team. I helped him prepare for some kind of battle, I don’t remember it now. He was already at the top, in my opinion, he won 6-7 victories in a row, and after our sparring he won. Throughout the preparation, he spent every training session with me.

— Is it wise to try to prepare for battle something that has never been done before?

– Yes, everyone already knows what I do. All I have to do is turn around a little, and everyone feels this rotational movement and raises their hand. I’m going to try to do something new.

— The UFC now has several brilliant strikers from Dagestan: Shara Bullet, Magomed Ankalaev and Umar Nurmagomedov. They are very different, but who do you prefer technically?

— I worked with Umar, I moved, the sparring was pretty easy. I really like the way he kicks. And his brother Usman is a great kicker.

— Do you feel like Shara is interrupted in his arms in the episodes?

– He lacks hands, we must add boxing. He has very good legs, but if he improves in boxing, it will only be space.

— Now Artem Vakhitov is switching to MMA. He, like you, is a specialized striker and is switching to MMA quite late. What advice would you give him?

“He doesn’t need to pay much attention to the fight now.” Otherwise, he will simply lose his strong point if he just starts fighting. We need to improve our weaknesses, but we should never forget about our strengths. Here, Alex Pereira (a kickboxer who became a UFC champion in two weight classes – ) shows that he does not fight at all. He goes out and hits so hard that even people who know how to fight can’t do it. Especially his calf kicks (a kick to the opponent’s shin area. – “”). He does not allow them to approach him. I think that Vakhitov can also fight with the same acuity in a standing position, so that no one approaches him. In addition, if he gets into the UFC, the UFC will be interested in bringing him to Pereira, they have already fought, they have some kind of history. I think he should remain a kickboxer, just improve his defense against wrestling, not fight, but defend himself.

Wrestling is such a thing that people learn it all their lives and it is very difficult to grasp it and understand all the nuances, say, in a year. It is almost impossible. And you can learn to defend yourself so as not to be transferred or to get up. And he does not need control at the moment. He must get up and fight on his feet.

– You are 40 years old, you have two defeats, but with a very strong amateur base. What are your hopes for your career at a time like this?

“I have three fights under contract and I want to win all three of those fights. And then we’ll see. My goal is just to get three wins. If the UFC has a reason to terminate this contract, so be it, but I’d like to finalize it.

Live broadcasts of mixed martial arts tournaments can be seen on and Match! Fighter, as well as on the websites matchtv.ru and sportbox.ru.

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Source : MatchTV

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