Why did Muhammad Mokaev thank Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa in his speech?

Following a stellar UFC debut, Muhammad Mokaev is on track to become the UFC’s new star in the flyweight division.

Mokaev’s first appearance in the octagon lasted only 58 seconds. In a flawless performance, he landed a flying knee that sent his opponent to the ground, and then he finished his opponent with a guillotine choke. To award his performance, The UFC granted him the “performance of the night” bonus.

After his win, Muhammad Mokaev thanked Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, a prince who is part of the despotic Bahrain monarchy, in his post-fight speech.

Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa is a part of the ruling family of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and his relationship with the MMA star goes back a few years.

Muhammad Mokaev has been a promising athlete for years. The Dagestani refugee who found shelter in England took on wrestling as a sport and managed to win 6 British Wrestling championships. Mokaev then transitioned into Brazilian jiu-jitsu and soon became a European champion.

After transitioning to MMA, his track record was no different. Mokaev went 26-0 as an amateur and was crowned twice as amateur world champion.

During his Amateur debut, he drew the attention of Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, who decided to sponsor the MMA prospect’s career.

“At my amateur debut in 2015, I posted a video on Instagram and the prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid [bin Hamad Al Khalifa] saw it,” Mokaev tells The National. “He tagged the Brave president, Mohammed Shahid, saying, ‘Watch out for this kid.”

“Three years later I’m in Bahrain, competing and winning world championships, signed with Sheikh’s KHK MMA. And then 2020, I’m in Brave, 3-0 as a professional.”

Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa is not only a fan of MMA – he has also competed as an amateur before. He participated in two amateur MMA bouts, winning his debut via TKO in the first round, and his second bout via unanimous decision.

Later,  Al Khalifa became the founder of Brace Combat Federation[BFC], the MMA organization that Mokaev was with for five out of his seven professional bouts.

According to Mokaev, his relationship with the Sheikh is not purely financial.

“It’s not about money. There’s no contract between Sheikh and me. Nothing. It’s more than any contract with huge money, more relationships, like family.”

“Because he was with me when I was young, in my amateur days. It means if I have a problem today, like an injury or my career doesn’t go well, he will stay with me. That’s the relationship between Sheikh Khalid and me. It’s worth more than anything.”