This past Saturday, Makhachev took on former titleholder and current top contender Charles Oliveira in the headlining bout at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Oliveira started off strong with his signature pressure but could not force his game plan past Makhachev, who dispatched him in the second round with an arm-triangle choke submission to become the new 155-pound king.
Khabib retired undefeated at the top and never lost his title inside the octagon. He chose to relinquish it when he hung up his gloves after a final win against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in Oct. 2020. Following his retirement, he focused on coaching and mentoring fellow fighters in his camp, including Makhachev, with whom he shares a long friendship.
In a post-fight interview with ESPN, Khabib gave his take on Makhachev becoming the new UFC lightweight champion.
“We talked before about Islam fighting Charles. I told you, Islam is going to take him to deep ocean and make him tap,” said Nurmagomedov. “I told you. Nothing against Charles Oliveira, but Islam is on another level. People have to understand Islam is very good. I told you.”
He added, “This guy finished an 11-fight win streak. UFC never made a fight like this before, 10 versus 11 fight win streak. This is the first time in the history of UFC. He finished him in the second round. First round, he mauled him. Please, give him some respect.”
Khabib Admitted He Was Nervous Before Realizing Father’s Plan
The unbeaten Dagestani had been rallying for Makhachev to get the title opportunity so that he could fulfill the vision of his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, whom wanted Makhachev to take the belt after Khabib.
When asked if he was nervous before realizing his father’s plan, ‘The Eagle’ admitted there was some anxiety.
“You want an honest answer? Very nervous. Because brother, I watch all his life, the last 20 years, the way how he works so hard, his amateur career, professional career, and now it’s almost time,” he said. “This is a very hard sport. Any time anything can happen. Look at Kamaru Usman. He was winning all five rounds, boom, one time, finished – he loses the belt.
“Same thing. Any time anything can happen. Charles is so good; he’s a high-level fighter, and of course, I was very nervous, because I love this guy. We grew up together. He was my father’s favorite student.”
Khabib Says Makhachev’s Victory Was Like His Win Over Conor McGregor
‘The Eagle’ compared Makhachev’s title win to his crowning moment against former two-division champion Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in Oct. 2018.
“For me, this is the same like Brooklyn because in Brooklyn my dream became true four and a half years ago. Now, my brother has become champion, it’s the same feeling.”
He further expanded on what’s next for Makhachev, offering two potential opponents he sees fit.
“Brooklyn, Abu Dhabi, what’s next? Perth, Sydney, whatever, Rio de Janeiro. We need locations… Islam is ready for anybody.”
“Our plan is to fly all the way to Australia and fight in the backyard of the pound-for-pound king right now, Alexander Volkanovski,” he added. “Or if you don’t want to fight, give us Beneil Dariush, he deserves it (on an eight-fight win streak). It doesn’t matter who we just want to fight with the best because Islam is the best.”