Frustrated featherweight Hakeem Dawodu has admitted he was trying to goad opponent Zubaira Tukhugov into trading with him during an angry outburst at UFC 253, accusing his Russian rival of being a “running man” during their fight.
Canadian Dawodu lost his cool in the final minute of the third round of his encounter with Tukhugov, snarling at his foe as his plea to “f*cking fight” echoed around the largely empty arena on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
His repetition of his foul-mouthed provocation failed to impress referee Kevin Sataki, who namechecked Dawodu as he reminded both fighters: “Come on, gentlemen. Be respectful. No cussing.”
Known as a knockout artist during his early career with the World Series of Fighting, Dawodu had been gunning to return to his most explosive form after recording only one KO in his flawless five-fight UFC career.
Hakeem Dawodu SCREAMING at Zubaira Tukhugov to stop bleeping running and fight him. Referee tells him to watch his mouth and be respectful … Sir, let it go.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) September 27, 2020
Hakeem Dawudo takes the UD and then apologized for telling Zubaira Tukhugov to stop bleeping running and “fu!!!!” fight him. Ref told him to watch his mouth, BTW. Umm, where they do that at? Goofy af. #ufc#AdesanyaCosta#UFCFightIsland
— The Sportsnista (@TheSportsnista) September 27, 2020
Having promised more firepower following his points victory over Julio Arce last November, he felt compelled to impress viewers during his most high-profile outing to date on the undercard of the headline fight that saw Israel Adesanya knock out Paulo Costa in a middleweight contest.
“They’re giving me a pay-per-view opportunity so I wanted to put on a fight for the fans,” he explained after settling for the relief of a split decision triumph.
“He was running so I apologized for the antics but I wanted to bait him in and get him swinging with me.
“I thought he was doing the running man. He was saying, ‘let’s go back’ but he kept running.
“We both know there have been some crazy decisions in the past, so every time you hear there’s a split decision you’re like, ‘damn’.”
Fr you think he might say something about Tukhogov refusing to engage… nope, worried about words hurting a fighter’s feelings. Wtf
— Tyler Van Voorhis (@vanvoorhisaurus) September 27, 2020
With all that running , dude could’ve made weight
— brian sanchez (@insertname12323) September 27, 2020
Some fans joked that Tukhugov, who weighed in 4lb over the limit for the fight, would have made weight had he spent as much time on the move prior to the bout as he did in the Octagon.
Others pointed out the curiosity of the official rebuking combatants who were employed to inflict serious damage on each other for the relatively minor crime of a few choice words.
“The dudes are in a fist fight and the ref is mad at some coarse language,” said one. “Beat the sh*t out of each other but no swearing,” added another.
Three of Tukhugov’s five defeats in his 25-fight professional career have split the judges, and he was consoled by lightweight champion and friend Khabib Nurmagomedov after his latest narrow setback.
Despite his mid-fight outburst, Dawodu clearly held plenty of respect for Tukhugov, Nurmagomedov and their stable at the subsequent press conference and recalled how he had beaten one of the champion’s junior’s teammates, Marat Magomedov, in the World Series of Fighting in 2016.
“I just said, ‘remember me’, because back in the day I fought one of his teammates and I bodied him,” he said, revealing his conversation with Nurmagomedov afterwards.
“He said, ‘Of course, brother.’ I said, ‘I respect you.’ That camp has always been really respectful to me.”
Dawodu added that sections of Tukhugov’s supporters had been less classy. “Some of the Russian fans have been saying some crazy rude stuff that I’m not even going to repeat here but you can only imagine,” he said.
“That camp, they have always been respectful, they never said nothing with ill will to me. Their fans and people following them should look after them and follow in their footsteps.
“There’s no need to get race into it. It’s a fight, it’s not race against race. We’re athletes, we’re going to war.”