The eagle who soared to UFC stardom
Last week, Khabib Nurmagomedov was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, underlining The Eagle’s place among the greats of the sport.
Born in Dagestan, Khabib began doing a range of combat sports at the age of eight. He got the bug when he saw other boys training.
From an early age, he showed immense discipline. His training sessions were tough; videos have even emerged of Khabib wrestling with bear cubs.
His father, Abdulmanap, built a gym in the basement of their home. He wanted to offer youngsters in Dagestan an alternative to religious extremism.
Khabib made his MMA debut in 2008. In under a year, and after six fights, he caught the eye of M1, Russia’s chief MMA organisers.
The Russian and Ukrainian leagues were too easy for him. He attracted the attention of UFC, who signed him up when he had a 16-0 record.
In UFC, he served up more of the same. He dominated fights without difficulty, and only injuries and weight issues held up his development.
After a two-year break due to a range of problems, Khabib returned to the octagon in 2016, and in April 2018 he got his first shot at a title fight.
The belt was vacant and Khabib was meant to meet Tony Ferguson, but once again the fight fell through. He faced Al Iaquinta instead, and won easily.
His first title defence, in October 2018, saw him leap to stardom. He crushed Conor McGregor, and made his name among the wider public.
Nobody could stop Khabib. Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje both succumbed to his almighty prowess.
But he sprang a surprise when, at 32, he opted to retire after beating Gaethje. The death of his father prompted the decision.
Khabib founded Eagle FC late in his career, and has been able to dedicate more time to it since retiring. In 2022, he took it to the US. He also coaches.
Although he insists his retirement is permanent - leading to his Hall of Fame induction - there are constant rumours of a return.
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