Khabib Nurmagomedov has become an undeniable star in UFC and is on a mission to be one of the greatest ever.
The lightweight champion may not the ‘sexiest’ superstar in terms of flamboyance, promotional techniques or even aesthetics in the octagon, but he’s a world-class wrestler who breaks his opponents down on the mat.
Despite not being known as a knockout puncher, Khabib has eight KO finishes on his record and a 28-0 record.
“I am a big fan of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. And I want to be the greatest like these guys. Not only inside the cage but also outside,” he has previously said.
Much has been said about Khabib’s training techniques that started back in Russia where his late father coach had him wrestling bears as a child.
“Firstly, a child always wants his father to see what his son is capable of,” Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov previously said.
“It is a pity that there was nothing more interesting when he was younger. In the end, this was a test of character more than exercise.”
The 31-year-old’s dedication and unique training underpins the overall tenacity and determination he shows inside the octagon where he has become the king of the UFC lightweight division with notable wins over Dustin Poirier, Michael Johnson and Conor McGregor.
Former light-heavyweight contender Chael Sonnen recalled a story about Khabib in training where he would take on his whole camp five minutes at a time back-to-back – and win every single one.
“Khabib’s got his whole team and coach Fabiano [Scherner] said there were like seven or eight guys.
“Khabib stays in for five minutes, clock goes off, new guy comes in. They just keep doing this until the workout partners can’t continue.
“It’s not when Khabib is tired, its when all the workout partners who are getting all these breaks in between are exhausted and can’t go.
“Coach Fabiano said he didn’t know if he’d ever seen anything like that in terms of the intensity he could keep up over a long period of time. He was wearing guys out while he was wearing down. Fresh guys still couldn’t wear him out.”
Sonnen says he believes looks can be deceiving when it comes to the UFC lightweight champ and his foes often underestimate his style and substance.
“I believe Khabib has a leg-up on competition accidentally. Because I believe if somebody watched Khabib wrestle, particularly the takedowns and the control on top specifically, which is his bread and butter, they still underestimate how good he as at that.
“I believe when you watch him on film, you get very comfortable because he’s a rinse and repeat guy. Push in the fence, entangle your legs, get to the body, drag you to the mat, entangle the legs while pounding, using a lot of pressure, mixing in strikes with passes with submissions.
“He does a good job of being busy. But you could break that down and go ‘I’m used to that and I’ve seen that.’
“But, it does appear that Khabib is doing a little more than meets the eye. It’s very sophisticated and complicated.”
There’s no question Khabib is a one of a kind fighter and his gateway to the UFC is a path precious few, if anyone, has walked before.
But I think we’ll pass on being in his training camp anytime soon!