Javid Basharat touched down in Las Vegas well in advance of his appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series last fall, in part to get acclimated to the time zone and the weather, but also simply in order to get a chance to work with the high-level talents that call the city and its many gyms home.
Even before he strolled into the Octagon and dominated Oron Kahlon to earn his UFC contract, the unbeaten bantamweight knew that if he went back home to London, it wouldn’t be for long.
“When I fought here on the Contender Series, I flew out early just to train, and I didn’t want to go back home, because it just felt like this was the place I needed to train at,” recalled Basharat, who makes his second UFC start this weekend in a dangerous pairing with American Top Team representative Tony Gravely.
Prior to moving stateside, Basharat trained almost exclusively with his brother, fellow undefeated bantamweight Farid Basharat, and emerging flyweight standout Amir Albazi. Although the triumvirate still works together all the time, relocating from London to Las Vegas has produced an influx of training partners, new relationships with standout coaches, and a greater understanding of what he needs to continue improving in order to make serious headway in the talent-rich 135-pound weight class.
“Now I don’t have to think about ‘what do I need and where do I need to go?’ I just go to the gym and there are so many high-level coaches between Xtreme Couture and BKMMA, which is Dewey Cooper’s place,” said the undefeated prospect, who has Cooper as his striking coach and former Strikeforce champ Jake Shields as his grappling coach. “For me to be able to pick their brains and have them share their expertise and experience, it means a lot.
“It’s been such a big leap for me in terms of confidence and fighting abilities,” Basharat said of the move to Las Vegas. “When I first came here, it was a bit of a shock to me — there were so many different styles, so many different bodies. I was holding my own — don’t get it twisted — and it gave me that much more confidence about how good of a fighter I am because you’ve got all these great fighters on the same mat.
“But I saw these little intricacies that they had that I was missing in my game; things in between and how you mix it together. You can be a striker, you can be a grappler, a wrestler, a jiu jitsu guy, but how do you make it work for mixed martial arts?
“This is one thing that I’ve learned a lot in Las Vegas, with these guys at Xtreme Couture,” he said, taking a beat. “Honestly, this is why I moved here, and we decided to stay out here full time because I’m like, ‘Man, if I want to be at the top of my game, this is where I need to be.’”
Basharat started to show UFC fans who he is as a fighter and what kind of upside he possesses in his debut win over Trevin Jones in March, and he looks to show them even more when he faces off with Gravely this weekend.
It’s a solid step up in competition for the undefeated 26-year-old — a matchup with a 30-fight veteran coming off a first-round knockout win, and who has won four of his last five inside the Octagon — but it’s exactly the type of assignment the proud Afghani fighter was looking for in his sophomore engagement.
“I know I’ve still got a lot of room to grow, but I don’t think I’m out of my depth by any means with Tony Gravely,” he said, chuckling, knowing people will read the response as cavalier, over-confident, perhaps worse. “I don’t feel like he’s better than me anywhere, including the wrestling; I really don’t. People underestimate my wrestling because they ain’t seen it, but they’ll be surprised with this fight.
“That’s kind of what I want to prove, as well: how good I really am and how well I do against these stylistically bad matchups like the wrestler because, at the end of the day, everybody is going to be looking at me like, ‘How’s Javid going to do against a wrestler? We know what he can do against a grappler, against a striker, but how is he going to do against a wrestler?’”
“This will answer a lot of questions.”
In addition to answering a lot of questions and catapulting him into the thick of the chase in the bantamweight division, a second straight UFC win this weekend and a victory over Gravely would also give him a little breathing room when it comes to the never-ending sibling battle between he and Farid.
“Over this last year, he’s closed the gap,” he said of his younger brother, whose initial appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series this year was scuttled when his opponent missed weight by a considerable margin, resulting in Farid finally stepping into the cage this week, just a few days before Javid will make the same walk. “Before it was a bit different — I was big brothering him a little bit, but now, he’s a handful.
“He always tells me I’m his hardest round and stuff, but honestly, he’s one of my hardest rounds, too. There are some things that he does far better than me, and that’s how we’ve become so well-rounded is because I get to pick his good qualities, he gets to pick my good qualities, and this is how we evolve.
“Now with our coaching staff? Man… the future is bright; that’s all I can say.”
The vision towards the future has kept Basharat from really sitting down and taking stock of all the major changes that have transpired, both personally and professionally, over the last year.
From winning on the Contender Series and earning a UFC contract, to relocating to Las Vegas and winning his UFC debut, and now diving headfirst into the deep end of the talent pool in his second outing, it has been a lot.
But, for now, he remains focused on the bright future.
“I have not really had a chance to settle and think about my accomplishments because really and truly, as a fighter from the (United Kingdom), the route I took, it was not easy; nobody was getting signed by the UFC from the UK.
“It was a big accomplishment, but I didn’t sit down and dwell on it because I was just like, ‘I need to get to work!’ As far as I’m concerned, the bantamweight division is the best division in the UFC, and I’ll be silly if I sit back and rest for a bit.
“I need to catch up and climb that ladder.”
And he needs to continue putting as much distance as possible between himself and Farid.
“I can’t let little brother have a higher ranking than me; that can’t work.”
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