Austria’s Ismail Naurdiev is looking to return to the winner’s circle when he takes on Finland’s Olli Santalahti in a super welterweight clash at BRAVE CF 54 in Poland on Sat. September 25.
The Chechen-born fighter, known as the “Austrian Wonderboy” due to his crowd-pleasing striking abilities, made his promotional debut at BRAVE CF 50 when he unsuccessfully challenged Jarrah Al-Silawi for the Jordanian’s BRAVE CF super welterweight strap.
He is now looking to bounce back and make a run at the currently vacant title, following Al-Silawi’s move to the PFL. In the build-up to his clash with Santalahti, Naurdiev has been training at Sanford MMA under the experienced eye of Dutchman Henri Hooft.
“The first time [Sanford MMA] I went there was three years ago, I trained a couple of times there, and for me, it is the best team in the world, ” Naurdiev says, speaking to LowkickMMA.
“Henri Hooft always gives positive vibes, he always gives me his experience, and I feel good when I am with him, he gives me a good feeling, and he also believes in me.
“He believes in every one of his fighters, he likes everyone in the gym, so it does not matter if you are a big star or no name. He cares about everyone, and when I am around these guys, I feel good and confident.”
Before arriving in Florida, Naurdiev was busy sharpening his skills in Thailand until a fresh Covid outbreak forced him to pack his bags for the Sunshine State. Travel is nothing new for Naurdiev; Austria’s MMA scene is still in its developmental stages, which means Naurdiev’s passport is kept in regular use while he crisscrosses the globe seeking to improve his craft.
“When I turned 18, I started to travel a lot. I went to Sweden, Thailand, and America, everywhere, and this is how I became successful; and If I had not traveled a lot, I would not be here, ” he explains.
“I think fighting is the easiest part of this game, a lot of people see only the fights, but they don’t see behind the scenes, the hard work. Being away for weeks, months from family, making weight cuts is much harder than the fight. When I am fighting, I just enjoy it. I feel good in my world.”
Naurdiev arrived at BRAVE CF following a stint in the UFC, which saw him rack up a 2-2 record with the promotion. Both his losses were via decision, and once he became a free agent, more than a few promotions were keen to acquire his talents.
At only 25-years-of age, his best years are still ahead of him, and his explosive fighting style will always be a winner with fans. So after weighing up his options and picking up a win under the banner of German promotion EMC, Naurdiev signed with the Bahrain-based company.
“I think in a couple of years, they [BRAVE CF] will become much, much bigger, and I am happy to have the opportunity to fight there. I love to fight, and in a really good organization. They take care of me. I love it.”
Naurdiev was hoping a win over Santalahti would see him secure his desired rematch with Al-Silawi, but Al-Silawi’s move to the PFL put a stop to that goal. However, he still has his eyes on capturing gold and intends to make a statement inside the cage this weekend in Poland.
“After this fight, I am looking for the title, and I am excited for it, ” he says.
“I would lie if I would say I am not nervous [ when he fights], I have a little bit of pressure, of course, but I can control it, and when I go to the Octagon, this is the part where I have a little bit of pressure. Then when the cage is locked and the ring locks, everything is gone. I am ready to go.”
Are you excited to see ” The Austrian Wonderboy” back in action?