I’ll be UFC champion within two years

Shavkat Rakhmonov (15-0, 15 finishes) receives his biggest opportunity yet with a co-main event bout against longtime fixture of the welterweight rankings Neil Magny (26-8, 10 finishes). The first fighter from Kazakhstan signed to UFC spoke with The Post’s Scott Fontana through an interpreter for the Post Fight Interview, ahead of Saturday’s latest event (10 p.m. ET main card, ESPN) at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. 

Q: Where does your nickname “Nomad” come from?
A: Early in my career, I was participating in the promotion called Battle of Normals. At the time, I didn’t have a nickname, and people were telling me that I should have a nickname. So, they gave me the nickname “Nomad.” And I believe this nickname suits me because, historically, Kazakhs were nomads, and I changed a lot of places where I lived. So I believe it’s a very suitable nickname for me, the “Nomad.”

Q: You finished every opponent that you have faced inside the distance. Were there any fights along the way in which you felt particularly challenged before you got the win?
A: Actually, it was a few guys; I had tough opponents. And I believed that the way to beat them was by points, by decision. But if I see the opportunity to finish the fight, I always go for it if it’s a submission or knockout. It’s always my goal to use this opportunity to finish the fight early.

Shavkat Rakhmonov, left, and Michel Prazeres of Brazil face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX last year in Las Vegas.
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Q: Would it disappoint you if you ultimately do have to go to a decision for the first time?
A: No, not at all. The win is most important for me. If it’s a decision win, it’s fine. It depends on openings. Everyone is a good fighter. It’s a high level here. But of course, if I see the opportunity to finish the fight, I will always jump for it.

Q: Were you interested in making the move to the UFC earlier than you did?
A: I believe everything happened at the right time. I’m still relatively young. I’m still learning. still improving. My skills are still getting better. So I believe now is a good time for me to be in UFC.

Q: You haven’t had the opportunity yet to fight in front of any big American crowds. Is that something you’re excited to do in the future?
A: Of course. I’m waiting for this moment. Also, a lot of fans are always hitting me up about tickets, about them wanting to go and watch me fight live. I’m just telling them, “Just wait. It’s going to happen sooner or later.” But also, fighting in [UFC] Apex with a small crowd, I feel comfortable too. The most important part is the result.

Q: Are you interested in becoming a star here with American fans?
A: I feel that I will. Firstly, I need to learn the language to be able to communicate with the fans. And it seems like the American crowds, they like trash talk more. So I need to learn the language.

Q: Are you working to learn English?
A: I’m learning a little bit. Not taking too much of my time, but learning a bit.

Q: This fight against Magny is a fight that you wanted. Did he earn your respect by taking this fight when it seemed other fighters were not interested in facing you?
A: I believe I wasn’t the fight that Neil originally wanted, but I respect him for taking the challenge. I believe it’s going to be a good challenge for me as well, which is going to show who is the better fighter. Nothing personal against him. I respect him as an athlete. But we’ll find out who’s better. 

Q: How do you assess Magny’s skills as a fighter?
A: He’s a very good fighter. I believe he has records in the welterweight division, and he’s a top-10 [ranked welterweight] now for a reason. But I’m ready to take his place. Let’s see if he’s going to accept my pace and endure my pace when I fight him.

Q: Many fans are excited by the idea of you eventually facing Khamzat Chimaev. What do you think of him as a fighter and as an opponent one day?
A: He’s just another ordinary UFC athlete, UFC fighter. And if we’re going to meet in the future, the cage will show who’s better.

Q: How soon do you think you can get yourself to the front of the line for a championship opportunity?
A: I believe 2023 or 2024, God willing, I will be the champion.

Q: What do you think of current champion Kamaru Usman? What do you think of him as a champion?
A: He’s a good fighter, good athlete, great champion. If, by the time that I’m going to be the No. 1 challenger for the belt, he’s still the champ, then we’re gonna meet. If he’s going to be retired by that time, then I’m gonna meet another No. 1 challenger or champion at that time.

Q: Do you recall your first experience watching mixed martial arts?
A: I was still very young. It was the early 2000s, and I bought some DVDs with fights. And, since I watched it for the first time, I liked it. And I started to imagine that, one day, I’m going to do this. And here I am now.

Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan poses on the scale during the UFC 254 weigh-in on October 23, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Shavkat Rakhmonov poses on the scale during the UFC 254 weigh-in in 2022 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Zuffa/LLC via Getty Images

Q: Who was fighting in those DVDs?
A: Mostly I remember Tank Abbott, early UFC tournaments with Tank. And later, I started to follow Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Cro Cop.

Q: Typical walkaround weight between fights?
A: Usually 87-88 kg. It’s about [192-194 pounds].

Q: Typical weight on fight night?
A: Usually, I don’t weigh myself on fight night. I don’t remember.

Q: Do you have a fight-day routine before you compete?
A: I don’t follow any routine. I just believe in God and go in there with the belief that everything’s going to be well.

Q: Who in mixed martial arts do you most admire?
A: When I was younger, I used to admire Fedor and Mirko. But once I became an athlete myself, there’s no admiration. I’m just one of them. 

Q: Favorite movie?
A: I like to watch mostly historical movies.

Q: Favorite video game?
A: I don’t play video games much, but sometimes when I have time, I just play on my phone. Usually, I play “PUBG” [“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds”].

Q: What is a perfect day for you that doesn’t involve training or fighting?
A: Nothing special. I like to spend time with my family, talking to my friends, so anything simple, watching movies with them together, maybe going to the sauna with friends. That seems like a good day for me.