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UFC 291, Jake Matthews to partner with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jake Matthews v Darrius Flowers,

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Almost a decade after signing on as the youngest fighter in UFC history, Australia’s Jake Matthews is now looking to partner up with Khabib Nurmagomedov for what he insists will finally be his fighting prime.

Unthinkable for a striker who is set to make his 18th Octagon walk against America’s Darrius Flowers at UFC 291 this Sunday, Matthews is only now, at age 28, entering what is considered his peak fighting years.

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Speaking with Fox Sports Australia from the US this week, the Melbourne welterweight revealed how, following this latest fight, he will head overseas to link with Khabib’s crew – with a view to eventually joining their famed training camps in Dagestan.

Apart from being part of the squad overseen by a UFC legend — and including the likes of UFC lightweight king Islam Makhachev — Matthews, who converted to Islam earlier this year, is also convinced the crew can help him overcome the mental obstacles that have prevented his breaking into the division’s top 10.

Throughout his career, the Celtic Kid has continually strung runs of two, even three impressive wins together – only to then falter when it comes to that bout which would put a number of 15 or higher against his name.

“Because I’ve been in the UFC such a long time, people wonder why I haven’t broken into the top 15, haven’t won a title,” Matthews says.

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“But you have to understand, I came in here at 19.

“Had to learn on the job.

“So I actually think I’ve done pretty well to stay here for almost a decade.

“But over that time, I’ve also had four or five losses that were all going to be breakthrough fights – put me into the top 15.

“And that’s when, mentally, I seem to drop the ball.

“So it’s about working out what is holding me back when I get to those fights.

“Because I’ve beaten guys that are now top 15. And I’ve lost to guys that aren’t even close.

“So it’s a matter of me dialling into fight camp, fight week, dialling into my mentality going into fights … and now I feel like I’m right there.

“I know I belong with the top guys, I just have to put it together on the day.”

Before he begins working with Team Nurmagomedov, Matthews must first get past Flowers – who is making his Octagon debut as a late replacement for Miguel Baeza.

While the Aussie is a -260 favourite, he knows much work is still to be done entering what he insists will be his fighting prime.

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Asked if he could have his time over, would he still choose to come into the UFC so early, Matthews continues: “I wouldn’t change anything in regards to the age I came in, no.

“Because if I didn’t get contracted after The Ultimate Fighter, who knows what happens?

“I might’ve given the sport away. Might’ve gone into the workforce and started a job that inhibited my ability to train.

“Which then prevents you getting into the UFC. So who knows?

“But over the years there are things I would change in regards to training, because I have a big network overseas that I’ve never really utilised.

“I love being an Australian born and bred fighter.

“But I’m about to start making the most of those connections.”

Matthews explained that, recently, he has made several strong connections among people involved with Team Nurmagomedov.

“They’re a very dominant team, with a completely different environment to what I’m used to,” he says.

“I’ve been to America and trained, been to Thailand and trained, but that team will be completely different.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: (L-R) Jake Matthews of Australia punches Sean Brady in their welterweight fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 06: (L-R) Jake Matthews of Australia punches Sean Brady in their welterweight fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)Source: Getty Images

“So that’s going to be my next adventure.

“They work out of American Kickboxing Academy, do some stuff in Thailand and Dubai and if we’re lucky enough to get into the circle will travel to Dagestan as well.”

So what chance he gets time with the legend himself?

“That would be a dream,” Matthews continues. “It’s a big ask because he’s so busy with a massive stable of fighters.

“But just to be around that crew will be incredible.

“Their mentality is obviously a lot different with the way they’re raised.

“They have such a strong mindset and it would be great to get around those guys.”

Asked about approaching 10 years in the UFC, he continues: “They say your peak age is late 20s, early 30s … and I’m 28 now.

“And in my last few fights I’ve definitely felt that.

“Felt the maturity coupled with that old man strength.

“So I feel like now, I’m starting my career again.”

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