MUHAMMAD MOKAEV arrived in England as a 12-year-old refugee who couldn’t speak a word of English.
But nine years after leaving Russia with his dad following the tragic passing of his mother, ‘The Punisher’ proudly flew St George’s flag at UFC London in March.
Mokaev blew the roof of the O2 Arena with a stunning 58-second submission victory over Cody Durden in his maiden octagon bout.
Life has changed drastically for the adopted Manc, who can’t go anywhere without being recognised, since that night at the O2.
But his newfound fame and bid for UFC gold mean little in comparison to his desire to be an inspiration for his fellow refugees.
The 21-year-old told SunSport: “I want my story to inspire people, especially coming from the refugee background.
“I’ve been around these people for a long time, I’ve been a refugee for ten years now.
“That’s why I was so happy about getting my British passport, I couldn’t travel normally.
“People talk about refugees and say, ‘They come to this country and they don’t have families and they’re happy with what the Government gives them.’
“But to come to the country, you have to put yourself on the map so as not to be put in the same circle as all refugees.
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“You have to stand out and believe in your skills. It doesn’t matter if you know English or not, you can build something here.
“If you could do it in your own country, you can do it here too. That’s what I want to prove and make motivation for those people.”
Mokaev always knew he’d make it to the promised land of mixed martial arts – a belief he carried well before making his amateur debut in 2015.
But he was somewhat overcome with emotion after finally putting to paper on his UFC contract.
The feared wrestler admitted: “It was special.
“But to be honest, the most interesting part of the journey is to now prove to people that this is possible.
“Because many people told me, ‘You’re not getting signed with your record. You need to be 10-0 to get signed by the UFC and you have to be in America.’
“But I always believed that I was going to be there. I could’ve been here earlier, but I wanted to take my time and have more fights in BRAVE. And now I’m ready to take over.”
Mokaev’s second octagon outing will see him lock horns with fellow UFC rookie Charles Johnson – a former LFA flyweight champion.
Although Johnson represents a significant jump up in competition for Mokaev, the youngster is confident of adding the American’s name to his victim.
When asked to give a prediction for the fight, he told SunSport: “I’ll finish, I’ll finish him any way I want.
“On the feet, on the ground, outside of the cage – anywhere.”
He added: “Round two, I’ll finish him.”
Three-time IMMAF gold medallist Mokaev is over the moon to have made it to the UFC, but he doesn’t just want to make up the numbers.
The Dagestani-born Brit plans to create history within the Las Vegas fight promotion.
He said: “My goal is to become the youngest champion in UFC history. And I believe I can do that next year.”