Zubaira Tukhugov rose to infamy in the UFC not because of his in-cage abilities, but because of his antics at UFC 229. The Russian fighter, a member of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s entourage, was caught on camera assaulting Conor McGregor following the chaos that erupted at the October 2018 card.
Bizarrely, he later admitted that the attack was premeditated in a video posted to Instagram and subsequently deleted. And that McGregor had not struck him prior to the assault.
For his actions, Tukhugov was suspended a full year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, although that was lessened by 35 days in a bit of a power play by Khabib ahead of UFC 242 last year, to ensure they could compete on the same card.
Tukhugov fought to a draw with Lerone Murphy that September, then got back in the win column for the first time since 2015 when he finished Kevin Aguilar at UFC Auckland this past February. He is set to return at UFC 253 this weekend, taking on Canada’s Hakeem Dawodu.
It’s a bit of a surprise to see him absent from Khabib’s own return, at UFC 254. But as Tukhugov explained at this week’s media day, “After my fight, I go to help [with] his fight.”
“If we fight on the same day, we can’t help each other,” Tukhugov added.
This is Zubaira Tukhugov’s second time fighting in Abu Dhabi. “It’s easy fighting in Abu Dhabi, because I don’t need a long flight. It’s just five hours from Moscow to Abu Dhabi,” he said of the Fight Island locale. “I like the people, I like the food here. I have a lot of friends in Abu Dhabi. I like fighting here.”
On Dawodu, Tukhugov stated that “My opponent, I know he’s a very strong guy. he has boxing. He’s a good opponent. I think [it’ll be] a nice fight, crazy fight.” As to how he plans on securing the win, “if I win this fight in knockout, nice. I don’t know. I’ll try knockout, I’ll do everything.”
“Maybe knockout. We’ll see,” he added.
Watch the full UFC 253 virtual media day interview with Zubaira Tukhugov above.