Talking exclusively to RT Sport, UFC lightweight Mairbek Taisumov told us about his plans after solving his US visa issues. The fighter also discussed Conor McGregor, fighting against Khabib Nurmagomedov, the number of the languages he speaks, and more.
Taisumov re-emerged on the radars of fight fans at the beginning of September, after a break of more than a year, at UFC Fight Night 115 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Continuing his winning streak, he spectacularly knocked out Brazilian Felipe Silva in the first round, when landing his first punch of the fight.
With that victory, which earned him the KO of the night bonus, the 29-year-old Chechnya native took his knockout streak to five in a row.
Despite those impressive stats, Taisumov is still relatively unknown among UFC fans.
That’s mainly because all of his UFC fights have happened in Europe as a result of issues with receiving a US visa in recent years. However, he did visit the States before signing with the UFC, to fight under the M-1 Global banner in 2011.
Following his latest victory, Taisumov, who permanently lives in Austria, came to Russia to visit the Chechen capital of Grozny, as well as Russia’s capital, Moscow.
During his Moscow stay, Taisumov was a special guest of the media day for the upcoming event of Chechen-based promotion Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) – ACB 71, which takes place on Saturday in the Russian capital.
RT Sport went to the event to talk to Taisumov about his winning streak, affiliation with Berkut Fight Club, future plans, and more.
RT: We know that you started out in sport as a soccer player. How did you make your way from soccer to mixed martial arts?
Mairbek Taisumov: I was playing soccer since I was a kid. In Austria I played for the Austria 13 (team). My school friend asked me to come to a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu seminar. I went there and saw all the moves, the chokes. You know, triangle choke, all that stuff. And I just liked it. I started to train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. But I could wrestle because I also come from wrestling, because in Chechnya everybody wrestles since being kids. In Chechnya wrestling is like a national sport. Everybody trains wrestling. I knew how to wrestle, but Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was new for me because of the chokes, triangle (choke), arm bars. I liked it, and then I saw mixed martial arts and I moved to mixed martial arts.
RT: How old were you when you moved to Austria?
MT: I come from Chechen Republic, I am Chechen. But when I was like 13 years old I moved to Austria. My parents decided to move to Austria, because they worked there. It was difficult, because I left my friends, I left my school, I left my soccer team. It was difficult, I couldn’t speak German, you know? But now I feel like Austria is my second home.
RT: Given that you’ve lived in Austria for so long, you probably speak German quite well. How many languages do you speak in total?
MT: I speak German, I speak Chechen, I speak Russian and a little bit of English. I like it when I can speak to people because in mixed martial arts we travel around the world and it’s nice when you come somewhere and you can speak to the people around you.
RT: Many people describe you as a hard worker, they say you train twice a day even when you don’t have any fights scheduled. Is it something you enjoy yourself or just take it as a part of your job?
MT: Some guys see the training as their job, you know. They just have to do this. I am enjoying the training. I love it. Even on the holidays I go to the gym, I go for a run. I am enjoying this. This is not work, this not what I have to do. I just love it.
RT: You have a 5 KO streak in the UFC, but you’re still not very well known by most of UFC fans. Mostly because all your UFC fights happened in Europe, since you’ve had issues getting a US visa. Is there any progress in solving those issues?
MT: I’m motivated to do five more knockouts. But this visa (situation) is the problem. I’ve been in America before. I had a working visa, I fought there, I paid taxes, everything was fine. But now they don’t let me in, I don’t know what happened. But my lawyers are working on it. I hope that soon I’ll have my visa and I’ll smash these (UFC) Top-10 guys.
RT: Your fight moniker is Beckan, what does this name mean? And how did you get it?
MT: I was playing soccer and my shirt was number 7, like David Beckham. And they just called me Beckan. This is where my nickname came from. All my friends call me Beckan still.
RT: We know that you’re affiliated with Berkut Fight Club from Chechnya. What’s your current relationship with them?
MT: Yeah I train with Berkut for many years. Three years ago I started (officially) representing Berkut. But before that I also trained with them.
RT: Berkut management also runs the ACB promotion, which is making a lot of noise among fight fans. How do you rate them, given that you performed for different organizations throughout your career?
MT: I think in Europe and in Russia the ACB is the biggest organization. These guys are getting better and bigger every day. They’re very professional. We [in Russia] have a couple of other promotions, but I think that the ACB is the best one. I think they’ll make some problems for Bellator very soon. They sign the best names, they sign good prospects. ACB is getting bigger every day. They made this promotion big in just three years. In the next three years I think it will be better than any other promotion.
RT: After your last fight you moved up in the UFC rankings to number 15, but you already said that you feel like you should be rated higher. What position do you think you deserve?
MT: They’ve put me on Top 15 on the official rating of the UFC. But I feel like I’m in the Top 5. You know that I want to fight Eddie Alvarez. But anyone (would work). I called out Michael Chiesa, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis. But no one wants to fight me. I’m telling you these guys don’t want to fight me. But when I get the visa I’ll go there and smash these guys.
RT: Would you consider fighting one of the top lightweights, Khabib Nurmagomedov?
MT: I know his father, they know me. We’re like brothers. I don’t think that we’ll fight each other. You can also ask Khabib, I don’t think that he’ll say that he wants to fight me.
RT: And finally, what’s your take on the current lightweight champion, Conor McGregor?
MT: Everybody is talking sh*t about McGregor. But I think he did a good job. He did amazing, he’s the champion. Everybody say that he talks sh*t, he does this, he does that. I cannot say anything about him, because I didn’t do the same that he did. He’s the champion and I’m not. When I reach the same level like him, maybe I’ll say something. But now I don’t want to speak about this guy. He’s the champion, he fought one of the best in boxing, he made a lot of money. These guys can talk (about him), but he did a good job.
by Denis Geyko for RT Sport