Is Khabib the greatest to grace the UFC?
Total domination. That’s what the world sees when they witness Khabib Nurmagomedov or ‘The Eagle’, fight in the octagon. 29-0 after the recent iteration of the UFC fights on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, against one of the heaviest hitters in the division, Justin Gaethje. Khabib retired soon after, using his interview to ask the UFC to put him on top of the pound for pound list. Many believe that he is the greatest mixed martial art wrestler of all time, but is this enough to cement him as the greatest of all time?
The fact that we have not seen Khabib bleed or even slightly bruised during his 29 hours, 13 of which were in the UFC, that fact alone is absolutely astonishing considering the brutality of the sport.
But let’s indulge in the specifics. Khabib has had 13 fights in the UFC in which he managed to claim the lightweight title and is arguably one of the greatest in the sport. Furthermore, from those 13 fights, he’s only a lost one round. Yes, only one round, against the notorious Conor Mcgregor.
Let’s not forget what Khabib is known for, pressure. The amount of pressure Khabib applies is unbelievable. He has managed to gas the likes of Gaethje and Al Iaquinta, fighters that are trained specifically to apply pressure to other fighters. In his most recent bout, Khabib managed to tire Gaethje in the very first round.
Another highlight of the last fight of his career was that he stood toe-to-toe with Gaethje, a man with terrifying power. Dana White was quoted saying, “Gaethje hits like a truck”. Considering Khabib’s background in wrestling, one would expect him to bring the fight to the mat instantly, instead, he stood in front of Gaethje while the latter tried to chop at his legs.
Khabib’s mindset is unlike we have ever seen before. His goal isn’t money or fame, for him, it’s always been about honour. His father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, played an instrumental role in shaping the champion we know today, most famously, forcing his son to wrestle a bear at 6. While we were learning the alphabets, Khabib was wrestling a bear, unrestrained and no muzzle on the beast.
Born in Sil’di, Russia, the Dagestan national embodies the tough and rocky terrain that he hails from. It is also important to highlight that he is a two-time Combat Sambo Champion. He fought with two broken toes that no one knew about coupled with the death of his father months before UFC 254.
“My toe is broken but not my mind”, is what he said about his predicament before the fight. The Eagle is the personification of strong-willed and is undoubtedly an elite athlete.
The world’s Twitter fingers were fast to react and congratulate Khabib on his magnificent career. Barring Jon Jones, who is arguably the most technically gifted fighter of all time.
“15 world titles to your guy’s 4,” he said in a video on social media. Jones takes offence that he was shifted to second after Khabib was crowned the pound for pound king.
But the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) status is more than what the stats display. It is about who sets an example for the younger generation. To hold a title and still be humble, is a task for fighters that have turned from famous to infamous due to the fame and status. It is safe to say, whether he is the greatest of all time or not, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a different breed of fighter.