Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Ismail Naurdiev can’t really blame anybody but himself for how his UFC run came to an end.
The 24-year-old prospect nicknamed “The Austrian Wonderboy” made quite a splash in his debut when he defeated Michel Prazeres in early 2019. While that victory set the stage for what he hoped would be a long career with the promotion, Naurdiev’s time in the UFC came to an end just three fights later after posting a 1-2 record with an additional win over Siyar Bahadurzada and a pair of losses to Chance Rencountre and Sean Brady.
While he engaged in talks to re-up with the promotion, Naurdiev was ultimately not signed to a new contract after he fought out his initial four-bout contract.
“We didn’t re-sign the contract on time. After the last fight, it was too late,” Naurdiev explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “We needed to make a one or two [fight] win streak to get back hopefully.
“That was also the point. My team told me just to make two or three fights to get more experience and not have any more unnecessary losses. So get a couple more wins and then get back [to the UFC].”
According to Naurdiev, his own mistakes were central to his UFC career coming to a rather abrupt end after only four fights.
Following a high-profile debut, Naurdiev believed he was destined for stardom and he allowed his own ego to interfere with the way he was approaching upcoming fights.
“I beat two good guys and I lost against two guys I could also beat if I fought smart,” Naurdiev said. “But I didn’t fight smart. I beat two good guys and then I got crazy. I thought I beat good guys already so I only need big names and these guys are no problem for me.
“I didn’t respect them. I didn’t have a game plan. I didn’t listen to my partners saying bullsh*t and that cost me my wins. I’m pretty sure I could win those two fights I lost.”
Naurdiev is also quick to point out his own methodology to fighting changed dramatically after arriving in the UFC because he felt like putting on a show was just as important as winning or losing.
“This was also the problem in the UFC. I tried to look good for the UFC,” Naurdiev said. “I tried to look good for the people because I heard a lot of things like they don’t like wrestling, they don’t like grappling and the UFC likes to watch a real fight, stand and bang and KO’s. I was only focused on this. They like it so I have to stand and bang and make some crazy stuff.
“When I focused too much on this, it just doesn’t work. If I just go into the cage and I’m focused just to fight. Don’t be crazy. Just fight. Just do your best and that’s it, I’m really different. This time, I will be smart and I will do anything I can to win.”
After the end of his four-fight deal with the UFC, Naurdiev ultimately inked a new contract with German-based promotion EMC where he will compete in their upcoming welterweight grand prix that kicks off on Sept. 5.
The four-man tournament will determine a welterweight champion for the promotion and as Naurdiev prepares for the grand prix, he’s putting to work valuable lessons that he took away from his past experiences in the UFC.
“Now I learned from that,” Naurdiev said. “I’m not going to listen to any stuff like that. ‘The only like stand and bang, they only like knockouts.’ F**k that. In the end, it only matters if you won or if you lost.”
Ultimately, he hopes to claim a championship in EMC while hopefully getting the kind of experience that will eventually earn him an invite to rejoin the UFC roster.
“Maybe it’s good that the situation happened right now,” Naurdiev said. “Maybe it makes me even stronger. Everything happens for a reason in life, I believe, and it will make me much, much stronger, also mentally.
“I’m good with the promoter and we have a good contract. Any time, if I get an offer from the UFC, I can leave, it’s no problem. So that’s why it’s a really good option for me.”