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Khabib Nurmagomedov is a Russian professional mixed martial artist of Avar ethnicity. Nurmagomedov is a two-time Combat Sambo World Champion and the reigning undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion. He currently holds the longest undefeated streak in MMA, with 27 wins, and remains undefeated in professional MMA. Hailing from Russia’s Dagestan region, he is the first Russian and the first Muslim to win a UFC title. His headline bout with Conor McGregor at UFC 229 drew 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, the most ever for an MMA event.
An ethnic Avar hailing from the Dagestan region of Russia, Nurmagomedov is the first Muslim to win a UFC title. In 2018, his headline bout with Conor McGregor at UFC 229 drew 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, the most ever for an MMA event. Trained in sambo, judo, and wrestling, Nurmagomedov’s style of grappling has made him one of the most dominant athletes in the history of MMA. Khabib is the most followed Russian celebrity on Instagram.
Khabib Nurmagomedov made his professional MMA debut in September 2008 and compiled four wins in under a month. On 11 October, Nurmagomedov became the inaugural Atrium Cup tournament champion, having defeated his three opponents at the Moscow event. Over the next three years he would go undefeated, finishing 11 out of 12 opponents. These included a first round armbar finish of future Bellator title challenger Shahbulat Shamhalaev, which marked his M-1 Global debut. In 2011, he would go on to compete for the ProFC promotion. That year alone he competed in seven fights, all of which he won by TKO or submission. A perfect 16-0 record in the regional circuits of Russia and Ukraine was enough to get a call up from the UFC.
Nurmagomedov employs a wrestling-based style of relentless pressure against his opponents often described as “mauling”. Using a variety of wrestling and Judo/Sambo takedowns, he forces his opponents against the cage, and ties up their legs and an arm to prevent them from escaping. From this position, he exhausts his opponents by forcing his weight against them and attacks with measured strikes his opponents are often unable to defend. As of UFC 229, seventeen of his twenty-seven victories had come by way of either TKO/KO or submission. UFC referee Herb Dean stated Nurmagomedov constantly talks to his opponents during fights.
As with other ground-and-pound fighters, such as Georges St-Pierre and Jon Fitch, Nurmagomedov’s ground-and-pound fighting style has led to polarizing opinions. Former three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion and two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture praised Nurmagomedov as “brilliant”. MMA Commentator Joe Rogan, a black belt in both 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, said of Khabib, “He’s the most terrifying lightweight contender in the world,” and “he’s just on such another level [of grappling] that the odds of beating him drop significantly after the first minute-and-a-half.”
Khabib vs. McGregor
On Friday, 3 August 2018, it was announced that Khabib would make his first defense of the UFC lightweight title against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 on 6 October in Las Vegas. At the event, Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor in the fourth round via submission in a dominant performance. After the contest Khabib scaled the Octagon and tried to attack McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis resulting in a brawl between the two teams.
Khabib vs. Poirier
In June 2019, Nurmagomedov signed a new multi-fight contract with the UFC. In the first fight of his new deal, Nurmagomedov made the second defense of his title against interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier on 7 September 2019 in the main event at UFC 242. He won the fight via a rear-naked choke submission in the third round. The win unified both titles and earned Nurmagomedov his second Performance of the Night bonus award. He and Poirier swapped shirts after the fight as a show of respect. In his post-fight interview Khabib said that he would be selling the shirt Poirier gave him and donating the proceeds to Poirier’s charity. The shirt sold for $100,000, and the donation was matched by UFC president Dana White.
Khabib vs. Gaethje
Khabib faced Gaethje in a unification bout on 24 October 2020 in the main event at UFC 254. Khabib won the fight via technical submission with a triangle choke in the second round to defend and re-unify the UFC Lightweight Championship. In his post-fight interview, Khabib announced his retirement from mixed martial arts. He explained that he had promised his mother that he would not continue to fight without his late father.
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