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UFC 253’s Zubaira Tukhugov: It’s ‘different’ fighting without Khabib’s father

ABU DHABI – Zubaira Tukhugov sees big implications in his upcoming fight at UFC 253.

Tukhugov (19-4-1 MMA, 4-1-1 UFC) takes on Hakeem Dawodu on Saturday’s main card, in a matchup between two featherweight prospects. He sees Dawodu (11-1-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) as a worthy opponent, where a win should catapult him to the top 15 rankings.

“I think after this fight, I’m top 15,” Tukhugov told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s UFC 253 media day. “I think, because he’s a good opponent, he won four times, I think we show a good fight.”

He continued, “I watched his fight, his last fight I watched. He’s a good fighter, good boxing, good blocking wrestling. He’s a good, strong guy.”

UFC 253 takes place at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

The loss of Abdulmanap, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father, has hit Tukhugov and his entire team hard. Abdulmanap played a large role in impacting Tukhugov’s career and, despite emotions running high, he vows to power through and continue honoring his legacy.

“Yes this is different,” Tukhugov said on Nurmagomedov’s absence. “Abdulmanap, he’s close with me, he helps me, I feel better. He’s now not here, it’s very sad. It’s not good. We need to keep going.”

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