Birmingham bloodthirst: Edwards inspires Hadley to rapid UFC 286 win, Mokaev escapes gruesome kneebar
O2 ARENA, LONDON – Flyweights Jake Hadley and Muhammed Mokaev nearly came to blows in their hotel during UFC 286 fight week, if you believe the accounts of both men.
The British prospects’ feud is the stuff of soap opera scripts, and both had dramatic evenings when they took to the octagon in quick succession to continue their winning runs.
Hadley had the quicker and far easier night, winning $50,000 for performance of the night by beating Malcolm Gordon with a bludgeoning body shot after a mere 61 seconds despite his opponent coming in over the weight limit.
Mokaev, who branded Hadley a “crackhead from Birmingham” afterwards, somehow escaped a horrendous kneebar that bent his leg at a gruesome angle, eventually submitting Jafel Filho despite lacking the use of one leg in an astonishing display of bravery.
1st round body shot KO thanks everyone on TEAM HADLEY will be back to answer all your messages just out right now eating a burger out of malcolms 30%#UFC #UFC286 #kingofflyweight #whitekong #2promtionworldchamp pic.twitter.com/XdAkRBCiSg
— Jake Hadley (@JakeHadleyMMA) March 18, 2023
“I’m bloodthirsty,” said Hadley, who has won twice since losing via decision to Allan Nascimento in his first UFC fight and faced a man Mokaev needed three rounds to beat in Gordon.
“I finished him quicker than Mokaev. It was life or death work 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 to fight me in the back, in the streets 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 had been “smashed” in his defeat to Liam Gittins in the amateurs – who Mokaev subsequently beat – and claimed he had first discussed a fight in 2017 against Hadley, whose pay demands had counted him out of a purported bout for Brave CF.
MOKAEV’S KNEE 😳 #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/GyTgC3tCm2
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) March 18, 2023
“He talks s***,” said Mokaev, adding that Hadley avoided sparring him when he was in Birmingham and reiterating his demand to fight a top-10 ranked opponent.
“He’s nothing special but if he enters top 12, 11, it’s possible. If I beat him, they’ll say ‘you beat Jake Hadley – he’s like a crackhead from Birmingham.'”
Even for a sport as gruelling as MMA, Mokaev’s claim that he had been willing to let his knee break seemed remarkable after he was helped to his post-fight media duties on crutches.
“I’m flexible,” he said in a staggering understatement. “He thought I was going to tap so he relaxed a little bit. He looked at me… I didn’t shake my head.
😬 @muhammadmokaev was ready for his knee to break during his victory at #UFC286. pic.twitter.com/f8vo5wGdx6
— Sporting News Fights (@sn_fights) March 18, 2023
“His grip was growing stronger, very strong. In my head, I was waiting for my ribs. It looked quite tight but I could still breathe.
“Then when I stood 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 was not. I broke him.”
Mokaev said that he had endured tougher amateur fights and did not want to spend Ramadan in the knowledge that he had tapped out.
For Hadley, the victory was made sweeter by the presence of training partner Leon Edwards as the co-headliner against Kamaru Usman, as well as taking a cut of his victim’s earnings after Gordon’s weight fiasco.
Alhamdulillah! Muhammad Mokaev with the Submission finish over Jafel Fialho! Showed amazing heart in this!#UFC286 pic.twitter.com/GxwgObh6XR
— Borz ⛰ 🐺 (@Borz4562) March 18, 2023
“Three-and-a-half pounds is a lot, especially at flyweight,” he observed. “He’s missed it by quite a lot. I took 30% of his purse but it’s not a lot when you miss by that much.
“I do think it was a strategic move. My last two opponents have missed weight by quite a bit. He wants to come in a bigger man, try to hold me on the floor and stuff like that.
“But if anything, I was bigger than him – I’m a big flyweight. They can keep trying but they can keep getting banged.
“I got a call on the night saying that he’d quit cutting weight at 8pm. I was like ‘f***, I’ve already done half the weight.
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“I’m a modern-day gladiator. In my mind, the crowd are all there for me. I don’t want to be too graphic but fighting gets me going. Hopefully I can get a top 15 opponent next or crack the top-15 rankings.”
Ranking and title ambitions also run through Hadley. “It gives me motivation to see Leon as champion,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed and thought I’m going to be champion one day but to see a friend and training partner… at one stage he was my coach, and he’s the champion.
“It makes the dreams even more believable. It’s pushed MMA in Birmingham. Leon is one [responsible] – and my coach, [former UFC fighter] Vaughn Lee, who was in my corner.
“We’re helping it grow and helping the kids in the area. Birmingham’s known for being rough and tough and it’s giving people another avenue, getting them off the streets.”