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Khabib names UFC fighter who hit him the hardest — and it’s not Conor McGregor

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UFC 223: Nurmagomedov v Iaquinta Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who also wore gold at 145 pounds, is considered one of the division’s most powerful punchers. And “Notorious” has the numbers to back it up, scoring 19 violent knockouts in 22 wins.

But in the case of (still) reigning 155-pound kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov, the hardest shots he ever took came in his UFC 254 pay-per-view (PPV) headliner against top contender and former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion Justin Gaethje.

That’s according to UFC President Dana White.

“Khabib was telling me this when I was with him last night, and I didn’t know this, maybe you guys knew this but all the stuff that him and Gaethje were talking about during that fight,” White said during the UFC Fight Island 7 post-fight press conference (transcribed by Damon Martin). “He told me last night that he’s never been hit or kicked harder ever in a fight than by Gaethje.”

Like he did in his title fight against McGregor at UFC 229 back in late 2018, Nurmagomedov (19-0) was able to weather the storm and work for a fight-ending submission. And no “Eagle” fight would be complete without some back-and-forth banter during the bout.

“Gaethje hit him with a couple of shots and then he thought Gaethje looked kind of weird and he pointed at him and said ‘you have jetlag’ in the middle of the fight,” White continued. “Gaethje said ‘No, I don’t’ and hit him with an uppercut and a left hook. Khabib said something to him again and he leg kicked him. Then I guess when Khabib took him down and was on top of him he said, ‘Now what are you going to do?’”

Nurmagomedov, 32, retired after defeating Gaethje but a persistent White insists “The Eagle” will fly again if McGregor is able to do something “spectacular” against Dustin Poirier — another victim of the Dagestani’s hall-of-fame run — in the UFC 257 main event this weekend in Abu Dhabi.