Lightweight prospect Nazim Sadykhov fought the entirety of his Fury FC three-fight contract in just 23 weeks. Despite successive stoppage victories over John Herrera, Juan Carlos De Leon, and Joe Boerschig, Sadykhov had no intentions of slowing down.
“I did go to Florida right after, I went with my girlfriend” Sadykhov explains. “We hung out for a little bit, but even in Florida I dropped by Sanford [MMA]; my coach Ray Longo is good friends with Henri Hooft. I never have a ‘vacation’ vacation; it’s just I don’t want to take vacations like that. Until the mission is accomplished – until I’m world champion – maybe [only] then I’ll be able to sleep at night. But until then, I can never really take a vacation, like relaxing or celebrating something. It’s good to celebrate, and I do have to force myself to take a break sometimes. But even on vacation, I was putting in work at Sanford [MMA]”.
Therein lies the first of Sadykhov’s many great attributes; an unrelenting work ethic that has been ingrained since a young age.
“I’ve been at this since three-and-a-half-years-old” Sadykhov admits. “I didn’t walk into a gym at three-and-a-half, my Father put me in at three-and-a-half; it’s just a part of our culture, to grow up tough. Disciplined. Be able to defend yourself; your family. A little bit later in life, towards my teens, I was already having real dreams of being a professional fighter and being in the UFC, so I actually don’t even have a period in time where I took more than two months off. Whether it was for exams in school, or an injury, I literally never in my life took more than two months off. I was literally in a gym before I learned how to properly walk as a child. This is literally just breathing to me. I live this, I really do live this. A lot of people say they live this because they love it, but I physically have been in the gym from three-and-a-half-years-old, so I’m more comfortable in the gym than my own living room”.
With his only professional loss at a lighter catchweight in 2018, 6-1 Sadykhov is unbeaten as a Lightweight, and is currently riding a six fight win-streak.
The Serra-Longo fighter now has his eyes-locked firmly on August 16th, where he competes for an opportunity with the UFC on Dana White’s Contender Series.
However, whilst Sadykhov was aware such an opportunity was just around the corner, he was still hungry to compete.
“According to my manager, my team, they were ready to put me on after 5-1, meaning [there was] a big chance that I would be on Contender Series” says Sadykhov. “I was also offered a short notice fight in April in the UFC, straight to the UFC, which I accepted on my end. But, I think the UFC itself let the fight fall through. The fight in March [against Joe Boerschig] was my third fight on the Fury contract; that just kinda solidified [Contender Series]. Mick Maynard was in attendance. It was just a good show, a good opportunity, and I just wanted to stay busy more than anything. Just because I may potentially have an opportunity in the Summer, I didn’t want December to be my last fight. I wanted to stay active”.
Indeed, had confirmation of a Contender Series matchup not come when it did, there was a real likelihood Sadykhov would have pursued another fight.
“To be honest with you, even with the Contender thing, I found out about this mid April, or towards the end of April, so I was thinking about taking a fight in June before I was actually official with Contender [Series]” Sadykhov admits. “I didn’t want to just sit around and wait for opportunities. I wanted to stay busy. I had so much time off with injuries, and stuff prior to that from when Covid hit, I wanted to get as busy as possible. So now that I have this opportunity – it’s an opportunity of a lifetime – I’m willing to wait. But even now, I’m just sitting around training. I can’t wait for this fight to happen, and we’re only 9 weeks out. So that’s that, I got this opportunity, I’m excited for it, but the busier I can stay, the better it is for me”.
Looking ahead to Contender Series, Sadykhov is set to matchup with Afghan Lightweight Ahmad Suhail Hassanzada in what promises to be a sensational bout. Make no mistake, Sadykhov is fully aware of what stands in between him, and a contract with the UFC.
“Like any opponent, I look into his fights” explains Sadykhov. “I’ll obviously take into account where he trains, where he used to train. He’s from Afghanistan. Afghanistan is huge on kickboxing, so he comes from a kickboxing background. He’s okay off his back. I know people are gonna look at his last fight and see he cut [James Wilson] up from the bottom, but I don’t feel that [Wilson’s] top pressure was where mine is, even though he was a decent wrestler. So [Hassanzada] has good fundamentals off of his back. He’s not a crazy wrestler. I’m sure he’s working on his takedown defence. I’m sure that he’s anticipating that I’m gonna shoot for the takedown, but it’s not quite the case because I feel I am way better rounded than he is, so I have more threats in more areas where the fight goes. As far as his strengths, I feel it will be just his length. He’s a basic kickboxer; couple of sneaky knees, couple of sneaky uppercuts, but nothing I haven’t seen before”.
“I’m just anticipating a hungry kid that wants this opportunity maybe as bad as I do” Sadykhov says. “I doubt it, but I’m just anticipating a tough opponent who is not just gonna get outta there in 20 seconds. I’m looking forward to a war, and if he wants war, I’m going to bring it to him”.
There is no doubt that Sadykhov feels ready for the next step in his professional MMA career. Indeed, his journey thus far has seen him train alongside a number of established talents, including UFC Bantamweights Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili.
“Specifically, Merab is somebody I have shared mats with from before he was even in Serra-Longo full-time, because in New York, you kinda float around” Sadykhov explains. “Unless you have your own team, which we do now, you kinda float around. You drop-by, do some sparring here, you wrestle here, you wrestle there. So, seeing [Merab’s] progression, seeing his potential fulfill, and still the best is yet to come with this guy I believe. I see that in myself and I’m just like ‘wow, the sky’s the limit’. If these guys are doing it – I’m sharing the mats with these guys. I know where I’m better than these guys, or where they’re better than me; where I need to improve, whatever it may be. Just sharing the mat with these guys will obviously give you confidence, and give you reassurance that you can’t get anywhere else. I’m lucky to be honest, to have this world class team right around the corner in Long Island. I live in Brooklyn. Having them a 40-minute drive away is just a blessing”.
Sadykhov credits joining Serra-Longo as one of the wisest decisions he’s ever made for his MMA journey, and considers such a move to be a personal career highlight.
“I think the personal highlight of my career has been joining Serra-Longo, because everything was put into perspective” Sadykhov reveals. “It’s one thing to dream, and it’s another thing to make the change, join a world class team, and really go after your goals with an entire roster of killers. So I think, as far as mixed martial arts goes, I think that would be the highlight of my career. I can talk about all these championships, kickboxing championships, two-time US National Kickboxing Champion, North-Eastern Judo Champion, all this stuff. But I think joining Serra-Longo, and pursuing a real professional MMA career with them, has been the highlight of my career. It’s been the smartest decision I’ve ever made”.
Having always wanted to proudly represent his heritage on the biggest stage, Sadykhov recognises that representing Azerbaijan at the UFC is a dream that could now become a reality.
“Im a proud Brooklyn boy, but representing Azerbaijan, to me, means the world, because my entire bloodline is from Azerbaijan” explains Sadykhov. “My parents are from Baku, my Grandfather is from Ganja, my Grandmother is from Baku. My entire bloodline is from the land of Azerbaijan; the land of fire. So for me to represent, it means the world. I want to make my people proud. It’s important to me, it’s been a goal of mine. You can go back on my Instagram and see my first post; it was me holding the Azerbaijan flag after a victory in New York City. I won, I think it was, a kickboxing match, and I captioned it ‘I can’t wait to put my people on the map’. So being this close to realising that dream, it just means the world to me. I look forward to doing that in the UFC, on the world stage”.
When the UFC Apex hosts the highly anticipated matchup between Nazim Sadykhov and Ahmad Suhail Hassanzada on August 16th, Sadykhov wants fans to prepare for something special.
“August 16th, expect fireworks, expect beautiful mixed martial arts, expect a knockout victory, and expect for Dana [White] to have a moment where he rocks back in his chair, grabs his head, and says ‘wow, we’re signing this kid’”.