My Favourite MMA Fighter: Khabib Nurmagomedov
By Anuj Datta
The Eagle of Dagestan, Khabib Nurmagomedov was the first name that came to mind when I was asked to write an article on my MMA favourite fighter. A man that emanates humility even though he has the best record in mixed martial arts, not to mention being the current undefeated UFC lightweight champion of the world.
Khabib was born in a small village, not considered safe by many outside it. Introduced to combat sports by his father Abdulmanap – an athlete himself in his army days. He began wrestling at an early age, the infamous videos of him grappling a baby bear has done its rounds on the internet. His environment and upbringing no doubt made a man of him quicker than the average.
By age 22, he was a 2x combat sambo gold medallist in the world championships and 9-0 in MMA. He was 16-0 by the time he made it to the UFC. There wasn’t much hype about his debut amongst the casual fans as he wasn’t much of a trash talker, which is the most common path to gain notoriety in the modern fight game. But he doesn’t believe in bragging, he let his performances do the talking.
If I was asked to put it simply, sheer dominance. In a sport where there are so many ways to lose, he has remained undefeated and fast forward to the present day he is 27-0. That is unheard of in any martial arts organisation let alone the elite competition he faces in the UFC.
The incredible ground game makes up for any other areas in which he lacks. Once the opponent is taken down, it is extremely difficult to get back up. If you do, ask Abel Trujillo what happens. Khabib set a record in that fight, taking Trujillo down at will, 21 times in fact. A barrage of ground and pound or submission excellence Nurmagomedov has 17 finishes to date and arguably he hasn’t lost a round in his career.
Although there have been concerns around him being able to make 155 pounds, he had no problem doing so in his last 3 bouts. Most recently, in the most watched card of all time – UFC 229, he went to war with arch rival Conor McGregor. McGregor did everything in his power to rile Khabib up prior to the fight, but to no avail. His unwavering faith didn’t allow him to retaliate until the octagon door closed and he decimated the former double champ.
Just before UFC 229, I took a trip to San Jose to train at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) where Khabib trains along with former and current world champions Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold to name a few. I was amazed how down to earth everyone was. Happy to train alongside everyone. He taught a class or two and took pictures with anyone that asked. Becoming a global superstar and millionaire hasn’t changed him though, he still lives with his parents in Dagestan along with his wife and two children. Only 30 years old, he is considering retirement but should he continue to fight, his legacy could be unmatched for decades.