Birmingham bloodthirst: Edwards inspires Hadley to rapid UFC 286 win, Mokaev escapes gruesome kneebar

O2 ARENA, LONDON — Flyweights Jake Hadley and Muhammed Mokaev almost got into a fight at their hotel during UFC 286 fight week, if you believe the two men’s accounts.

The British prospects’ feud is soap opera script stuff and they both had dramatic evenings as they went into the octagon in quick succession to continue their winning streak.

Hadley had the quicker and far easier night, winning $50,000 for the night’s performance by defeating Malcolm Gordon with a club to the body in just 61 seconds, despite his opponent exceeding the weight limit.

Mokaev, who thereafter branded Hadley a ‘crackhead from Birmingham’, somehow escaped a horrific knee bar that bent his leg at a cruel angle and eventually subdued Jafel Filho despite failing to use a leg in an amazing display of bravery.

“I’m bloodthirsty,” said Hadley, who has won twice since losing to Allan Nascimento in his first UFC fight and faced a man Mokaev took three rounds to beat in Gordon.

“I finished him faster than Mokaev. It was a matter of life and death for Mokaev. He can say what he wants, but I think Nasciomento would absolutely destroy Mokaev, finish him in the first round. Instead, he wants against me fight in the back. down the street like an idiot.”

Hugely popular on social media, Mokaev was born in Dagestan and moved to England as a refugee when he was 12, settling in Wigan and winning gold at the English Nationals in freestyle wrestling in 2019.

Mokaev said Hadley was “smashed” in his loss to Liam Gittins in the amateurs – whom Mokaev subsequently defeated – and claimed he first spoke about a fight against Hadley in 2017, whose salary demands had barred him from an alleged fight for Brave CF .

“He talks shit,” Mokaev said, adding that Hadley avoided coaching him when he was at Birmingham and reiterated his call for fighting a top-10 opponent.

“He’s nothing special but if he gets in the top 12, 11 then it’s possible. When I hit him they say, ‘You hit Jake Hadley – he’s like a crackhead from Birmingham.’”

Even for a sport as grueling as MMA, Mokaev’s claim that he was willing to break his knee seemed remarkable after being helped on crutches to his post-fight media duties.

“I’m flexible,” he said with amazing understatement. “He thought I was typing, so he relaxed a little. He looked at me… I didn’t shake my head.

“His grip grew stronger, very strong. In my head I waited for my ribs. It looked pretty tight, but I could still breathe.

“Then when I got up on my knee, my knee was gone. I broke his heart. He didn’t finish me in a position where he was black belt and I wasn’t. I broke him.”

Mokaev said he’s weathered tougher amateur fights and doesn’t want to spend Ramadan knowing he’s dropped out.

For Hadley, the victory was sweetened by the presence of training partner Leon Edwards to co-headline against Kamaru Usman, as well as his victim’s earnings being cut after Gordon’s weight fiasco.

“Three and a half pounds is a lot, especially at flyweight,” he noted. “He pretty much missed it. I took 30% of his wallet but it’s not much when you’re missing out on so much.

“I think it was a strategic move. My last two opponents pretty much missed the weight. He wants to come in with a bigger man, try to keep me grounded and stuff like that.

“But if anything, I was taller than him – I’m a big flyweight. They can keep trying, but they can keep getting beaten.

“I got a call in the evening that he stopped losing weight at 8 p.m.

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“I’m a modern day gladiator. In my eyes, the spectators are all there for me. I don’t want to be graphic, but fighting gets me going. Hopefully I’ll get a top 15 opponent next or crack the top -15 leaderboards.”

Ranking and title ambitions also run through Hadley. “It motivates me to see Leon as a champion,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed and thought that one day I would be champion, but to see a friend and training partner… at one point he was my coach and he’s the champion.

“It makes the dreams even more believable. It pushed MMA in Birmingham. Leon is one [responsible] – and my trainer, [former UFC fighter] Vaughn Lee who was in my corner.

“We help him grow and help the children in the area. Birmingham is known for being rough and tough and it gives people another way to get them off the streets.”

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