UFC 254 will be quite a landmark event for the sport’s Middle Eastern fans. With their hero Khabib Nurmagomedov defending his belt against Justin Gaethje in the main event, there are a whole host of fighters on the undercard that represent the region. One of those fighters is Liliya Shakirova from Uzbekistan.
The former Gorilla Fighting Championship Women’s Flyweight champion will be making her UFC debut against Lauren Murphy. Murphy last fought and beat Roxanne Modafferi. This is no easy tune-up fight for Shakirova.
She expressed gratitude towards Khabib at the pre-fight presser, revealing that Khabib and his team were crucial in booking her for the event. According to her, Khabib’s team have also opened a channel for Uzbek fighters to make their way into the UFC, However, she also added that she is yet to get tips from Khabib on her fight this weekend.
“Khabib’s team traveled to Uzbekistan and negotiated some sort of a bridge for the Uzbekistani fighters to have a way to the UFC or global arenas. They’re heavily involved in those negotiations.”
On whether she has spoken to Khabib about her fight. “He hasn’t given me any advice yet because he is busy preparing for his fight.”
UFC 254: The launchpad for Shakirova?
There has been something special in the prelims of the latest Fight Island cards. We are seeing spectacular performances almost every week. However, those moments always come at the expense of someone else. Will Shakirova get a strong moment or be on the receiving end of a bad one? Or worse, what if she does not have an eye-catching performance?
Considering the depth of the Women’s Flyweight division, a few good performances can be the catalyst to a high-ranking fight. While Shakirova is a long way off from fighting champion Valentina Shevchenko, she does have options. Murphy will be a tough opening test, but possibly the best opponent to gauge her talent.
Shakirova could be one of the first mainstream fighter from Uzbekistan. Khabib has helped introduce her to the UFC. That was all he could do. Now it is on Shakirova to capitalize on this chance.
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