Ta­jik­istan prospect looks to get back on track

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

TWENTY years old and un­de­feated, Muin Ga­furov looked poised to vault into the fight­ing world’s up­per ech­e­lon over the last three years – un­til it all came crash­ing down af­ter his first loss in April.

Now, the ONE Cham­pi­onship ban­tamweight prospect out of Ta­jik­istan looks to re­verse course against the Philip­pines’ Kevin Belin­gon (13-5-0) dur­ing their ONE: State of War­riors fight on Oc­to­ber 7 in Yan­gon’s Thuwunna In­door Sta­dium.

“That first loss was hard for me,” Ga­furov (10-1-0) said. “Los­ing my un­de­feated record was like los­ing a chink in the ar­mor. I had to dig deep and find a way to re­build my­self, to im­prove and to come out of de­feat with my lessons learned.”

Born in Dushanbe, Ta­jik­istan, Ga­furov quickly made a name for him­self as one of his coun­try’s most re­spected prize­fight­ers. As he con­tin­ued to pile up vic­to­ries – even­tu­ally win­ning 10 straight – the stakes of each fight be­gan to rise higher and higher.

But Ga­furov kept ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion, dis­patch­ing op­po­nents with both strikes and ground game. Dur­ing one par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent eightweek stretch in late 2014/early 2015, the “Ta­jik” de­feated four op­po­nents in a row by sub­mis­sion, de­ploy­ing guil­lo­tine chokes and arm­bars to fin­ish each of them within the first round.

It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one knocked him down a peg, how­ever, and promis­ing Aus­tralian up­start Reece McLaren did just that in April, out­last­ing Ga­furov’s usual high-en­ergy start and win­ning by unan­i­mous de­ci­sion af­ter a full three-round bat­tle. The loss was Ga­furov’s first ex­pe­ri­ence see­ing a cage­match go to the judges.

“I had to take a step back and see where I went wrong. It was an eye-opener for me,” said Ga­furov. “I’m young though and with an in­cred­i­ble ceil­ing. I al­ways knew I was com­ing back and even bet­ter than be­fore. I’m just ex­cited to get back in­side the cage and do what I love do­ing.”

Next week’s fight of­fers a shot at re­demp­tion for the young fighter, who will look to use his speed against the 28-year-old Belin­gon. The Filipino is not ex­actly an ideal matchup for some­one look­ing to get back in the swing of things: Train­ing in high al­ti­tudes of La Trinidad, Philip­pines, with the world-class Team Lakay MMA gym has helped Belin­gon be­come one of the hard­est punch­ers in the game.

His elite strik­ing comes via train­ing in the Chi­nese mar­tial art of wushu san­shou, which prizes speed. Belin­gon will look to fin­ish the fight as quickly as pos­si­ble, po­ten­tially beat­ing Ga­furov at his own game.

But with his rep­u­ta­tion on the line, Ga­furov is ac­tu­ally glad for the chal­lenge.

“I know my op­po­nent is very strong, but that’s all I can ask for, is to face the tough­est guys,” said Ga­furov. “I want to fight the very best in this pro­mo­tion, and Kevin [Belin­gon] is def­i­nitely one of the best.”

Photo: Sup­plied

Af­ter suf­fer­ing his first loss in April, Muin Ga­furov of Ta­jik­istan hopes to re­bound at the ONE: State of War­riors in Yan­gon on Oc­to­ber 7.

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