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‘Killer’ Israel Adesanya won’t lose until ‘a young rookie’ steps up

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The middleweight division is going to have a tough time dethroning the reigning and defending 185-pound kingpin, according to Nassourdine Imavov.

Nassourdine Imavov is regarded by some as a future champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and he doesn’t expect anyone from the current guard to dethrone reigning 185-pound emperor, Israel Adesanya.

Imavov (10-3) looks to improve to 3-1 inside the Octagon when he fights Edmen Shahbzayan (11-2) at UFC 268, which will be headlined by Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington 2 and is expected to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., on Nov. 6, 2021, streaming via ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV). “The Russian Sniper” has high praise for Adesanya and can’t see much of the ranked division posing a serious threat.

“He’s the alpha male right now. He proved it time after time. He’s the best killer. The most intelligent fighter with the best fight IQ,” Imavov told MMAMania.com through his head coach, manager and translator Fernand Lopez. “For now, until a young rookie like me steps up, he’s the boss.”

Imavov is an un-ranked Middleweight when it comes to the official UFC rankings; however, he hovers around the top 20-30 on independent websites. Based on his current trajectory, Imavov expects to be a major contender in the Middleweight division this time next year.

“If you see how fast I’m going because of MMA Factory and how good of a job they’re doing. I’m a new guy on the roster and I’m already Top 20,” he explains. “According to that pace that we’re going, I think next year I will be a contender for the belt and at least in the top five.”

MMA Factory is firing on all cylinders with no bigger success story than UFC interim Heavyweight champion, Ciryl Gane. For Imavov, a rising tide lifts all boats.

“Whenever we have that sort of momentum in the gym it brings strength to everyone. Motivation and strength. If you think about Ciryl becoming the Interim champion, for me it means everything is possible if you believe in yourself,” the UFC fighter says. “I become stronger.”

Imavov has the chance to enter the official UFC rankings and make a strong impression on UFC brass with a win over Edmen Shahbazyan (No. 11). Shahbazayan — once considered a potential threat to Adesanya’s middleweight empire — enters the fight with the first two professional losses of his career against Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson. Some criticized Shahbayzan and his camp for accepting a fight against a strong grappler in Hermansson after getting out-classed by Brunson’s wrestling-heavy approach.

“I don’t think I would have done things differently. I think each defeat makes you learn in your life. I think he tried something that could become something big for him. But because he’s still green, it didn’t work out for him,” Imavov explains. “I think it will eventually benefit him. If you fight in the UFC, you better fall forward not backward. You better fall against people better ranked than you.

“I do have some weaknesses,” he added when reflecting on his own skillset. “I had to work on my mentality which was to win every inch, every single second of every fight. If you punch me, I punch you. If you take me down, I take you down. I wanted to win in every department. Now I’m more composed and I’m listening to my cornermen. I’m very patient now.”

Imavov, 25, was born in Dagestan, Russia, but emigrated to France at a young age with his family.

“We are well known for our mountains. They are beautiful and the view takes our breath,” he says of Dagestani culture. “We are very well known in sports because of how many champions we’ve created in the Olympics.”

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