Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov beat out UFC heavyweight kingpin Francis Ngannou, UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes, and UFC strawweight titleholder Rose Namajunas to win “Best MMA Fighter” at the 2021 ESPY awards.
ESPN fan votes helped determine the winner.
Nurmagomedov, 32, retired from MMA with a professional record of 29-0, having finished his 2020 fight campaign with a submission victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. “The Eagle” also beat Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor before calling it a career.
“Now that I’m not going to train any more, I have people close to me, brothers and friends who are now fighting at the highest level,” Nurmagomedov told Esquire Middle East “There are about five or six people who we are building the path with, and I will help them, train with them, share my experiences. To some extent, this can be called a coaching life, but I am not going to fully enter into coaching. I will always be there and share my experience.”
Nunes, who wears gold in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, was also nominated for “Best Athlete, Women’s Sport” but fell to tennis phenom Naomi Osaka. “Lioness” makes her next 135-pound title defense at UFC 265 in August.
A timeline for Ngannou’s return has yet to be determined.