A future UFC heavyweight has made history after becoming the first man in over 40 years to win medals in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling at the United World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas last week.
Bilyal Makhov is yet to compete in a mixed martial arts bout at any level, but was signed by the UFC earlier this year based solely on his wrestling achievements.
The 27-year-old Russian is currently preparing for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, where he intends to compete in just one of the two wrestling disciplines – after which he will dive headlong into preparation for his UFC career.
“My approach to this is very, very professional. I’m not doing this for some kind of PR. I’m doing this 100 percent. Anything I do, I think about how to do it and the best approach,” he told MMAjunkie.
“I know there are some technical aspects of this game I need to work on. I’m still working on (my striking) with my coach. But it’s just a matter of time.
“My base is wrestling, and the rest I’m going to work hard to get where it needs to be to get up to the level.”
The 6 foot 5 inch, 285-pound heavyweight is not just confident about his ability to transition from amateur wrestling to top level MMA, but also believes he can challenge previous champion Cain Velasquez and current champion Fabricio Werdum for control of the division.
“I think I can do it. I’m not just saying that for PR. I actually believe I can do it,” Makhov said.
“I’ve been watching Velasquez and Werdum. I’m following them. I’m watching their fights, how they train, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get to that level in as short a time (as possible).”
Makhov will not be the first Olympian or the first Olympic wrestler to compete in the UFC, but will instead join an illustrious list featuring several of the promotion’s current and former stars.
While many UFC fighters have competed and won medals in judo and wrestling at the Olympics, only three gold medalists have ever competed in the octagon.
Former fighters Mark Schultz and Kevin Jackson were the respective first and second gold medalists to join the UFC, and undefeated flyweight and bantamweight contender Henry Cejudo became the third when he made his first appearance in 2013.
However, unlike Makhov, Cejudo had a five-year gap between his victory at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and his first MMA fight. Cejudo also competed in several lesser promotion before signing for the UFC.