Bellator 292: Tofiq Musayev Believes Shabliy Will “Prefer to Wrestle,” Reveals Training History with Gaethje


Former RIZIN lightweight champion and Grand Prix winner Tofiq Musayev took his talents to Bellator recently after spending most of his career fighting in the Far East. Musayev (20-4) knocked out Sidney Outlaw, the number one lightweight contender at the time, in only twenty-seven seconds in his debut with the promotion in 2022.

Now the trailblazing Azerbaijani looks to turn his prodigious talents to a difficult bout with Alexandr Shabliy, who has many similarities to Tofiq in terms of their career paths and their last Bellator fights, in the opening round of the Bellator lightweight Grand Prix at Bellator 292 in San Jose.

Tofiq was not shy when asked to predict the path that his upcoming opponent would try to take in the cage on Friday, telling Cageside Press that “I think he’s gonna change his gameplan for this fight and he’s gonna prefer to wrestle me, and I’ll be ready in every position.”

The current #2 ranked Bellator lightweight — who holds a prior victory over Patricky Pitbull, the ex-champ and current #1 contender — seemed to feel so confident in his stand up that he was certain Shabliy would not be able to strike with him, or would feel uneasy attempting to do so, but when asked about those ideas in a follow up question, Tofiq simply expressed how well-rounded and well-prepared he is.

“For this fight I’ve prepared to be both stand up, [and to be] on the ground; the fight will show everything, the pace on the fight will show everything, because that’s the trait of a good fighter, to adjust during the fight. So wherever the fight goes I’m gonna be ready to adjust and execute my plan.”

Tofiq appears to be locked in on that plan and showed where his attention lies as he declined to focus on or discuss any of the external factors of the upcoming fight and lightweight Grand Prix.

When asked about his experience with such eight-man tournaments, an uncommon feature in modern MMA, he simply responded, “I will do everything to win, and that’s my main focus. I know it’s not my first Grand Prix, but other factors I just don’t think about — just to win and that’s it, that’s my only thought.”

The conversation then pivoted to discussing the Azerbaijani MMA fighters who have recently been able to fight in big organizations, perhaps following in his footsteps. The topic of his countrymen elicited more excitement from Musayev.

When asked about Nazim Sadykhov, an undefeated Azerbaijani prospect who just made his UFC debut and won ‘Fight of the Night’ honors, Tofiq responded, “First of all, I want to say that whoever represents our country, our Motherland, I am bowing my head in front of them. Secondly, of course I know Nazim, he is a good friend of mine. He is a tough guy. I spoke with him before the fight, after he won. He showed a good fight, it was a good fight I think for him. Potentially, we might train for the next fight together, we might go through a camp together, and I’m watching his career, I’m rooting for him, I am always here for him. In general, I believe all of us can be a great help for the up and coming generation and be an example for them.”

Tofiq clearly has a passion for his country and his fellow countrymen and seems to take pride in helping along younger fighters. That was not the last tidbit Tofiq would drop about training with his fellow . Asked about Rafael Fiziev, who has Azerbaijani heritage and is fighting Justin Gaethje at UFC 286 this month, Musayev gave his prediction.

“Yeah of course I have friendly relationship with Rafael Fiziev as well. And his opponent, Justin Gaethje, used to be my stand-up sparring partner; I used to train with both of them. In my opinion, Rafael is gonna finish this fight.”

Coming from someone who has trained with both men it is hard ignore the confidence in Musayev’s prediction, though his personal feelings about his countryman may affect this. It is worth noting that the public and Las Vegas both seem to agree with him though, as Fiziev is currently a strong favorite against Gaethje in the betting odds.

If it was not already apparent enough that Tofiq Musayev is all about fighting, he declined to engage with the managerial side of fighting and declared he is willing to fight anyone when asked about the matchmaking that led to the talented Shabliy being the first round opponent in the Grand Prix.

“For Shabliy, it was never a problem to fight anyone, I am always ready to fight anybody, and it’s the organization’s decision. They match-make, they stylistically choose fights; they think who should fight who. Just for me, all throughout my career I always fight to fight the best guys, the best fighters, so for me it never matters.”

This approach to fighting is perhaps that which causes fans of the sport to flock to watch him. Tofiq has gained many fans across Asia and Europe for his fights, but is coming into just his second fight in the United States. He was asked if MMA fans in the West are starting to pay attention to him more now.

“The same way I won my fans over [in Asia] by my fights, by showcasing my skills. That’s the same way I plan on doing here, winning fans with my fighting, my performances.”

A perfect showcase of his skills in in Friday’s co-main event will surely win American fans over to the side of Tofiq Musayev, something he appears certain he will accomplish.

Bellator 292 takes place Friday, March 10, 2023 at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA.


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