Yancy Medeiros suffered a brutal thumb injury while defending a Rustam Khabilov takedown. | Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty
Greg Jackson knows what a future world champion looks like. He’s trained a few.
That’s why his lofty expectations for Rustam Khabilov carry such weight.
“I foresee him being a world champion pretty much for sure,” Jackson told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show just two days after the Russian fighter had scored his second UFC win. “Unless a meteor strikes him or something, I feel that he’s going to be a world champion.”
Khabilov notched a TKO over Yancy Medeiros at UFC 159 when the undefeated Hawaiian dislocated his thumb while defending a takedown.
“That thumb was broken, broken,” Jackson said.
After the fight, Medeiros made a point to show Khabilov and his coach that he was truly injured.
“It looked pretty bad,” Jackson said. “Yancy’s such a warrior. If they would have said, ‘OK, fight,’ he would have done it. He’s a real warrior. He’s a class act and he’s very talented. I think great things are going to come from that guy. It was really cool of him to come out of his way -- I mean, he didn’t have to do that. He could have been like whatever, but he came out of his way to show us and make sure that we understood and respected him, which we do. We understood and respected him greatly.”
The fight was called 2:32 into the opening round but had been entertaining up until the stoppage. Jackson liked what he saw from his Russian lightweight.
“It’s just really exciting to see [Khabilov’s] progression that’s been attained so for,” the trainer said. “He’s getting better and better. What’s crazy about him is he looked a lot more technical this time. You didn’t get to see much last time because he just suplexed the guy a bunch, but this time his striking looked a lot more technical.”
Jackson also saw areas of improvement for Khabilov, though. At only 26, he should have plenty of time to tighten his game as he climbs the UFC’s lightweight ladder.
“We saw some things that we’re going to improve on, but he’s very, very impressive in how he competes,” Jackson said. “He’s the happiest guy backstage. He’s probably one of the happiest fighters I’ve ever had. He just loves to fight. He’s joking and laughing and smiling the whole time. He’s the least nervous guy in the room. That attitude is wonderful and he’s so talented.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:58:37).