After more than a year away from the cage, former UFC flyweight title challenger Ali Bagautinov is all set to make his return to the sport at Brave CF 46.

The event, which takes place at the WOW Arena in Sochi, Russia, represents the Bahraini promotion’s first foray into Russia, and the organization has stacked the card with Russian talent for the event, with Bagautinov’s return set to feature in the co-main event slot.

Bagautinov (18-7) fell short in his bid to capture the Fight Nights Global flyweight strap in his last MMA outing in October 2019, and, during a year away from the cage, he ventured into boxing and defeated Belarusian Fighting Championship (BFC) flyweight MMA champion Andrey Kalechits via unanimous decision last November.

Now “Puncher King” is all set for his return to MMA action, and will take on fellow countryman Oleg Lichkovakha in a 130-pound catchweight matchup, with the former UFC veteran keen to return with a win on his Brave CF debut.

“I don’t think much of my opponent Oleg,” a confident Bagautinov admitted ahead of their matchup. “Let him think of me. And I calmly wait and prepare for Jan. 16. I missed the cage very much, I am hungry and angry. I want to show my best fighting qualities.”

Lichkovakha, meanwhile, said he’s happy to play the role of underdog against his more illustrious opponent, and the 24-year-old said he’s sure Bagautinov is underestimating him ahead of their matchup.

“I see him on Instagram sledding downhill in the snow and having fun. He thinks he can easily win against me, that’s why he is relaxed,” he said. “He thinks I’m a nobody, but I’m fired up, I want to win. I will beat him and shock the MMA community.

“Ali may have better stamina, but I have lasted three rounds in many fights and my endurance is much much better than him. His last fight was in boxing, he probably doesn’t even train wrestling anymore. I’m a better wrestler and grappler, I can submit him.

“I will use wrestling, striking, grappling, jiu-jitsu, everything to show I am the better fighter since everyone considers me an underdog. Ali, do not relax. Ride less on the slides and be careful. Don’t pull out cause you don’t want to face me.”

The event is headlined by a lightweight title bout as Russia’s reigning Brave CF super lightweight champion Eldar Eldarov puts his 165-pound title on the line against Brazilian former UFC welterweight Leonardo Mafra.

Also set for action on the card are Russian talents Roman Bogatov, Konstantin Erokhin and Rustam Chsiev.

Confirmed bouts for Brave CF 46 include:

MAIN CARD (Fite TV, 10 a.m. ET)

  • Champ Eldar Eldarov vs. Leonardo Mafra – for super lightweight title
  • Ali Bagautinov vs. Oleg Lichkovakha
  • Nurzhan Akishev vs. Roman Bogatov
  • Zhyrgalbek Chomonov vs. Konstantin Erokhin
  • Abdisalam Kubanychbek vs. Jahongir Saidjamolov