“The King of Kung Fu” continued to build a foothold in the UFC welterweight division Saturday night. UFC 251 saw Muslim Salikhov (17-2) earn his fourth straight victory, this time against the always-tough Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.
That split decision win came in a back-and-forth affair on the feet. But it’s no more than Salikhov was expecting, he told Cageside Press following the fight.
“I’m expecting this striking match with Elizeu, because he’s a good striker, a top level striker also,” he said. “So we can show a very beautiful fight for fans.”
As iffy as the judges can sometimes be, Salikhov wasn’t nervous at all as the scores were being read. “I was very sure about my win,” he stated. “I controlled the fight. First round, he just got me with one right hand. That’s it. All three rounds I controlled him. I win, for sure.”
The secret to his success — four straight after dropping his promotional debut to Alex Garcia is 2017 — is “just hard work,” said Salikhov. “Hard work, every day working, no rest. Six days a week, two times a day, working hard.”
The hard work was compounded by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which had shut down gyms all over the globe. “It was very hard. It was two months where I have to always search [for] gyms, to do sparring,” Salikhov explained. “All these calls to guys, ‘can you do sparring with me?'”
The hard work paid off with a win at UFC 251, on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Now, Muslim Salikhov is gunning for an opponent in the top 15. No particular name concerns him, he told us. The timeframe is what matters.
“I want to fight soon, because I don’t have injuries,” he said. “I want to fight as soon as possible. September, August. August maybe not, I need a bit of time for a break. But two months, I will be ready.”
Watch the full UFC 251 virtual post-fight press scrum with Muslim Salikhov above.