M-1 Global Welterweight Champion Shamil Zavurov (14-1) will attempt to defend his title for the second time when he takes on Rashid Magomedov (8-1) in the M-1 Challenge XXV main event, on April 28, at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
It is a significant fight for Zavurov, not only because his title is on the line, but because Magomedov remains the only fighter who has ever defeated him.
Their first fight took place at an M-1 Selections event in Nov. 2009 in St. Petersburg and Magomedov won a controversial split decision.
Since then, Zavurov has won 10 straight fights, and Magomedov has won four and lost one.
ProMMAnow.com spoke with Zavurov this past week and he shared his thoughts on Magomedov, their first fight, how they both have grown as fighters and what he expects in the rematch.
We also discussed his aspirations of fighting in the U.S. one day. He shared his thoughts on the UFC and Strikeforce, which UFC welterweight inspires him and which Strikeforce welterweight he would like to fight.
PRO MMA NOW: Thank you for talking with us at ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) Shamil. How do you feel now as your fight with Rashid Magomedov gets closer, do you feel well-prepared and healthy?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: I’m doing well, I feel healthy and prepared. I’m in a good shape.
PRO MMA NOW: Rashid Magomedov is the only person to defeat you; a split decision in 2009. Did you agree with the judges’ result in that fight, did you feel that Magomedov won the fight, or did the judges get it wrong, and you should have been awarded the victory?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: I don’t think he won and I’m not the only one who thinks that way. That was a judge’s decision and I’m sure they were forced to make it. There was a yellow card… I was so sure I will win. I was dominating for two rounds, I was always on top and Rashid caouldnt do anything. My appeal wasn’t taken into consideration. But I want to say that I don’t look at the upcoming fight as on a rematch.
PRO MMA NOW: How do you think you have changed as a fighter since your first fight with Rashid Magomedov, how have you improved?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: I wasn’t ready for the previous fight with Rashid neither physically nor mentally. And right now I’m on the whole new level of training. I’m not only wrestling, I have improved my striking technique. So it will all be the other way around.
PRO MMA NOW: Do you think Rashid Magomedov has also improved as a fighter since your first fight — how has he improved?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: I know for sure that Rashid has grown up as a fighter as well. He used to be only a good striker and now he works on the take down defense and it won’t be easy for me to put him on the ground.
PRO MMA NOW: Would you prefer to keep the fight standing up with Rashid or would you prefer to take him to the ground at M-1 Challenge XXV?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: That would be really stupid of me to try to box with him as that’s his ace. I will have to fight standing up for some time of course to recover after wrestling as it takes a lot of strength, but my aim is definitely putting him on the ground.
PRO MMA NOW: Whatt is your opinion of Rashid Magomedov as a fighter and a person, and how do you see the fight playing out — how will this fight end?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: Only God (IM NOT SURE THAT’S THE RIGHT WORD FOR MUSLIMS – TATIANA) knows how the fight will end but Rashid is a very good fighter and he had proved it by fighting dangerous opponents and winning them over. He is a really good guy too, we are pals, I have never heard anyone saying something bad about Rashid and I will never say anything bad myself.
PRO MMA NOW: What are your goals as a fighter, what would you like to ultimately achieve in your career and is there anyone out there you would like to fight that you have never fought?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: My goal is to improve myself in every fight. I’m really looking forward to fighting strong famous opponents. I know I’m not ready for UFC yet, but I would really want to fight the Strikeforce Champion in my weight class, Nick Diaz.
PRO MMA NOW: Do you still practice Wushu and how does it help you in MMA?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: No I don’t practice Wushu anymore and the truth be told I don’t think it’s very useful. Even when I was performing Wushu I was winning only because I’m a good wrestler.
PRO MMA NOW: Who are some athletes and fighters that inspired you or that you like to watch — who are your favorite fighters to watch?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: Georges St-Pierre – one of the best fighters in the world.
PRO MMA NOW: What do you think about the fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce and would you hope to compete against them one day? Do you hope to fight in America one day?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: I think that’s the higher level of fighting. I would definitely want to fight in Strikeforce as I have mentioned before and I think I’m not ready for UFC yet, but that’s what I want to do in few years. Of course I want to go to America -– that’s a goal for every fighter.
PRO MMA NOW: Thank you so much Shamil. I wish you the best of luck in your upcoming fight. Is there anyone you would like to shout out or thank?
SHAMIL ZAVUROV: i would like to thank all of my fans for their support and I’ll do my best to not disappoint them.
M-1 Challenge XXV: Zavurov vs. Magomedov will broadcast in a LIVE stream on ProMMAnow.com on April 28, 2011. In addition to the main event title fight between Zavurov and Magomedov, Vinny Magalhaes will face Viktor Nemkov in a light heavyweight championship bout.