Ever since he left the MMA circuit, the absence of Khabib Nurmagomedov has been sorely felt. No one has been able to replace the charismatic Khabib in performance as well as in the ability to attract public attention. The fighter who is known as “The Eagle” becomes 34 years old on September 20 and the void that he has left seems unlikely to be filled in the near future. A two-time Combat Sambo World Champion, Khabib had a background in the disciplines of sambo, judo and wrestling which he used to good advantage in his sport.
Every sport needs a legendary figure to grab the attention of the media and the public. Khabib was to MMA what Muhammad Ali was to boxing. Both had the same qualities inside the fighting arena. A never say die spirit which embodied their passion, their spirit and their zest for the sport they loved. Both arose from humble backgrounds and conquered the world.
It was his father who was the guiding influence in Khabib’s life. Khabib once said: “I grew up in a very small village with a very poor life. My father brought us from the village, he sold our house and he brought me, my brother and my cousins to the city.
He brought almost 15 people from the village to the capital city. He rented a big house and we all lived together. We would eat together, study together, eat together and train together. All because my father invested everything we had. He gave his time, energy, money and he invested in us.”
“From this house emerged six world champions, UFC champions, a lot of great fighters and very good people because father gave us a good education. He gave us the opportunity to learn in good schools and universities. All his life he invested in people. He did not invest in property or money making schemes. He invested in his children. This is the best investment,” explained Khabib.
So who was this man, father of Khabib who had so much foresight and wisdom? His name was Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov and he was a champion too. He was a Russian army veteran, former judo champion and coach for combat sports.
In September 2019, he was listed by the Russian Book of Records as the most successful combat sambo coach in the country. Under his guidance, all the boys whom he brought from his village prospered. Khabib was the most successful of them all. Using a variety of wrestling holds and judo take-downs, he learnt to force his opponents against the cage and lock their legs to prevent them from escaping his grip.
Khabib’s spectacular victories over Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier earned him the respect of the entire MMA fraternity and even President Vladimir Putin became his big fan. After Khabib’s second successful defence of his title, when President Putin had a meeting with him, both were enriched by sharing their experiences. It also brought the status of Khabib into the media limelight. No longer was he merely an MMA fighter but also a man of substance who was appreciated by Putin himself.
Now, after retirement, Khabib is trying to put into practice the theories that he had learnt from his father. He too believes in investing in people and training youngsters. Since retiring, Khabib has been an active coach with American Kickboxing Academy’s head coach Javier Mendez. Khabib coaches a host of promising young fighters who have made a mark in various competitions.
But will there be another Khabib? Another soaring Eagle of the combat scene? That seems unlikely to happen in the near future. As of now, Khabib stands alone.