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Nurmagomedov 'brothers' talk unique upbringing, US debut

LAS VEGAS -- Time will tell if Abubakar Nurmagomedov is as great a talent in MMA as his older cousin Khabib, an undefeated lightweight title contender in the UFC.

One thing that both are sure of right now, however, is that Abubakar is capable of the same variation of trash-talk that has helped make Khabib famous in recent years.

"All the time this guy was fighting in the streets," said Khabib, on growing up with Abubakar in Dagestan. "It's very different over there. All guys are tough and everybody is ready to fight all the time. I was always fighting because of him in school. He looks like a good guy, but he was a trouble maker."

Abubakar (9-1) will make his US debut on Saturday, when he fights Jorge Moreno (4-0) at WSOF 22 at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. For now, Abubakar will compete in the welterweight division, although his longterm future most likely lies at 155 pounds, the same as Khabib.

The two are often referred to in the media as brothers, although they are technically cousins. In their words, they are 'blood brothers.'

When Khabib was seven-years-old, his father and three uncles consolidated their sons into one household. In all, 16 boys lived in one three-story house in Dagestan's capital city of Makhachkala, training wrestling and combat sambo.

Khabib's father, Abdulmanap, raised the boys with an "old-school" mentality. No women lived in the house. Khabib and Abubakar said their fathers and uncles did not require them to have a job growing up, as every ounce of focus was to be dedicated toward training.

"It was a 24/7, year-round training camp," Khabib said. "A lot like the military."

Three of the 16 boys, of which Abubakar and Khabib were nearly the youngest, went into MMA. One, Abubakar's older brother, has already retired (although still young at 27, is contemplating a return). Abubakar did well fighting primarily in Russia, recording finishes in each of his nine victories. He's also competed in freestyle wrestling tournaments and sambo from a young age.

His style is inevitably similar to Khabib's, although there is one major difference. Whereas Khabib, who is perhaps just one win away from a UFC title shot, typically absorbs very little damage in his fights, Abubakar is known for welcoming a brawl at times.

He's received a relatively fair amount of media attention ahead of his first fight in the US, thanks to his bloodline. He is a heavy favorite to win on Saturday and is confident his skill set will back up both.

"He's my older brother, so of course he's a big motivation, a huge motivation, I will say," said Abubakar, through a translator. "I look at him and am trying to follow him, the steps he's taking. I'm training hard right now and my focus is on my career. I wish to get to the same height as (Khabib's nickname) 'The Eagle.'"

According to Abubakar, interest in he and Khabib's career might be even stronger in Dagestan than the US. The region is well-known for its production of combat sport athletes and has embraced MMA. Due to the time difference, Abubakar says Khabib's UFC fights are usually aired at approximately 5 a.m. local time, but few in Dagestan miss it.

"Not only Dagestan, the entire region," Abubakar said. "People don't sleep so they can watch the fight."

Abubakar will return home after this weekend's bout. He is planning to hold his next training camp at Khabib's adopted home in American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.

In addition to developing as a martial artist, he's intent on learning English, mostly so he can take advantage of the Nurmagomedov-style trash talk -- which Khabib has effectively used throughout his career on the likes of Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis.

"I've just always been like that, trying to prove something to someone or showing that I'm the boss anywhere," Abubakar said. "I take (trash talk) to another level than my older brother, but I don't speak English yet. Just wait for my English.