UFC lightweight champ Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, provided more information on the state of the champion’s MMA career. The Russian’s fighting future became a major talking point in the MMA community after his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died in earlier this month. The Eagle and his late father were very close as Abdulamanp was the champion’s coach and mentor throughout his entire career.
After Abdulmanap’s passing, reports from Russia began to circulate claiming that Khabib was retiring from the sport, which Abdelaziz refuted. On Friday, Abdelaziz was interviewed on the UFC Arabia platform. During the interview, the manager reiterated that fans should expect to see Khabib in the Octagon in 2020.
Abdelaziz also confirmed that The Eagle will likely retire after two more UFC fights. Khabib is currently 28-0, and the lightweight champ would like to hang up his gloves at 30-0, Abdelaziz said.
This may not shock fans as Khabib has been vocal in the past about retiring early. The 31-year-old spoke with Arab News in October 2019 and said (as transcribed by MMA Junkie), “For sure I think I’m going to finish [at] 33, 34, it’s going to be done. But right now, I have a couple of years to compete.”
Update July 28: Per CNN, UFC president Dana White has announced that Khabib vs. Justin Gaethje will take place on October 24. Location is TBD.
Adbulmanap Wanted Khabib to Retire at 30-0
As per Abdelaziz, retiring at 30-0 was Adulmanap’s hope for Khabib, and the fighter is seemingly motivated to fulfill his late father’s will.
In an interview with the Russian outlet TASS in September 2019, Abdulmanap said (as transcribed by BJPenn.com): “For Khabib, 30-0 is enough.” Abdulmanap also said that he wanted Khabib’s final title defense to take place in Moscow.
Khabib’s next task in the Octagon is to take on interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. The two have been linked to UFC 253 on September 19, however due to Abdulmanap’s passing, it’s unclear if the fight will be scheduled for that date. UFC president Dana White has told the media that he is giving Khabib the time he needs to mourn his father’s passing.
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Daniel Cormier Has a Grim Opinion on Khabib’s Career
In contrast to Abdelaziz’s comments on Khabib’s fighting future, former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier believes there’s a chance that fans will never see him fight again. Cormier and Khabib are longtime training partners at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. During a recent episode DC & Helwani, Cormier told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that he had doubts about Khabib fighting in 2020 or beyond.
He said, “I don’t think he’s fighting this year, honestly. And it’s going to take a lot of strength from a very strong man, for Khabib to be back in the Octagon ever, I think.”
Cormier continued, “Man, I just know what Abdulmanap meant to him. And I know that this was their journey together. I hope he fights, I just don’t know. Like I said, he’s going to have to muster up a lot of strength for an already strong person to go out there and do it. And if he does, I just don’t know how long he’ll be around.”
The former champion said, “Maybe he fights and honors his father with another massive and unbelievable performance. But I look back to his fight in September, and when he won and the way his dad reacted… it was almost like his whole body, his spirit, was filled with joy watching his kid do that and I’m just happy they got to share that together.”
Khabib Last Competed in September 2019 When He Defended His Title for the Second Time
It has been nearly a year since The Eagle has competed inside the Octagon. The last time he fought was in September 2019 when he took on the interim lightweight champion at the time, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier, at UFC 242.
The Eagle put on an impressive performance, finishing Poirier by rear-naked choke in the third round and snapping his six-fight unbeaten streak.
Khabib was then supposed to defend the lightweight strap against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April, however the Russian was forced off the card due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Khabib was replaced by Justin Gaethje who defeated Ferguson in May, earning the interim lightweight strap.