Photo credit: Will Paul of CES/MMA
Ashiek Ajim, a professional bantamweight fighter out of Long Island, has visions of being the best in the world. It all starts on the regional circuit, though, and Ajim plans to go around collecting bantamweight belts from various promotions.
“Ideally, if it plays out this way, I would like to collect all the belts in the local promotions,” Ajim told MMASucka.
Ajim was set to fight at CES 66 on March 4. His original opponent, Jay Perrin, who was the CES bantamweight champion, signed to the UFC to take a short-notice fight against Mario Bautista at UFC Vegas 48 on Feb. 19. Ajim then suffered an injury and was pulled from the card altogether.
Ajim has designs on taking straps in CES, CFFC, Ring of Combat, Cage Titans, and LFA.
“I just want all the belts as long as the UFC doesn’t call me,” Ajim said.
Ajim has his eyes set on the UFC, as he feels it is currently the best MMA promotion in the world.
“The UFC is seen as the highest-level promotion. If you’re the UFC champion, you’re the best in the world,” Ajim said. “That’s how I look at it. If there was another promotion that came up and they happened to be the No. 1 MMA promotion, I’d rather sign with them and be their champion. Because I’m just aiming to be the best in the world, so whichever promotion that is, that’s who I’m going to. Right now, it’s the UFC, so that’s my goal.”
Ajim said he would take a one-off fight with Bellator or sign a short contract with Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s Eagle FC if it meant getting closer to reaching his goal of signing with the UFC, he said.
First, he wants to collect as many straps at 135 as he can. Ajim doesn’t plan on moving to featherweight unless he could become a two-weight champion in the UFC, he said.
Four of Ajim’s five professional victories have come via KO/TKO. Ajim said he doesn’t have a striking background; rather, he started with everything: striking and grappling all at once.
“People kind of see me as a knockout artist because I finish fights. But I personally don’t see myself as a knockout artist or a power puncher. In the gym I’ve never knocked anyone out. Maybe from body shots, but to the head, I’ve never hurt anyone. But in fights, I just happen to put guys down.”
Ajim said he aims to be a jack-of-all-trades.
“Someday, hopefully, I can be a master-of-all-trades,” he said. “That’s the goal. But obviously, you can’t master everything.”
Ajim’s lone pro career loss came to current UFC bantamweight Kris Moutinho. Moutinho rallied to TKO Ajim in the second round after Ajim had him hurt early in the fight. Ajim said he learned a lot from the loss; mentally, physically, strategically, and tactically.
“I put him down in the first pretty early,” Ajim said. “In my mind, I just thought I would let him up and then I could put him down again. All I was thinking was touch him; just land one more clean shot. I wasn’t really thinking strategically.”
Ajim admitted that Moutinho’s experience edge – he had three professional fights to Moutinho’s 11 at the time – played a role in his lone professional blemish.
“The biggest thing, technically, would have to be the ringcraft,” Ajim said. “Whenever [Moutinho] wanted to go, I kind of allowed him to. I exchanged with him rather than disengaging, going back to the center and then going on offense on my terms. That was a big factor technically. I think the biggest thing that played into it was more mentally. I feel like going into the second round, I don’t know how to describe it, but it might have been an adrenaline dump. After you put a guy down, you feel like you can finish him, and when it doesn’t happen, your body kind of shuts down. I can’t really relive that moment, but I try to take away what I can, and definitely moving forward, I took a lot from that fight.”
While the opportunity for Ajim to fight Perrin for the CES belt did not materialize, Ajim will look to put what he learned to use going forward in his career. Since the loss, he has finished both Carlos Espinosa and Richard Barnard in a combined 64 seconds.