Khabib Nurmagomedov may not have been in his protege Islam Makhachev’s corner at UFC 284 last night (Sat., Feb. 11, 2023) in Perth, Australia (details here), but he was definitely watching the fight at home.
At the start of 2023, Nurmagomedov revealed a plan to step away from the mixed martial arts (MMA) industry and spend more time with his family. That meant no more training camps and no more cornering, not even for his close friend, Makhachev, as he prepared to battle the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Alexander Volkanovski.
While Makhachev would walk away from the fight with a unanimous decision win (watch highlights), it was a much closer affair than most pundits anticipated. There’s a lot of debate as to whether Volkanovski really lost, and whether Makhachev deserves to take the No. 1 pound-for-pound position after such a tight win over a Featherweight fighter.
Obviously, Makhachev believes he did enough to secure the top spot in the sport.
“Now people are gonna call me not just champ, but best fighter in the world,” he said at UFC 284’s post-fight press conference. “This is my dream. Doesn’t matter how I won. I’m very happy.”
And how did Khabib Nurmagomedov feel about his performance?
“He told me he was so nervous,” Makhachev said with a laugh. “And he said, ‘Why are you doing this, this, this this?’ If you come too and if you were my corner, I can do this. But you didn’t come.”
The backstage area at UFC pay-per-view (PPV) events are swarming with cameras, and one of them actually caught Islam’s FaceTime call with Khabib following the win.
Khabib: Well, you’re a P4P king— MiracleM96 (@Deli964) February 12, 2023
Islam: If only you were here. It would be much easier for me
Khabib: Zubaira didn’t teach you his moves?
Islam: It’s not like I fought a random guy, he’s the best fighter in the world. I’ll see you soon
Khabib: I aged 50 years because of you https://t.co/AdDoOQH1bd
“Well, you’re the pound-for-pound king,” Khabib said.
“If only you were here — it would be much easier for me,” Makhachev replied. “It’s not like I fought a random guy, he’s the best fighter in the world. I’ll see you soon.”
“I aged 50 years because of you,” Nurmagomedov replied.
Khabib has been known to get pretty emotional while cornering his fighters, so it must have been especially difficult for him to be at home unable to offer his friend any advice as he endured the toughest challenge of his career.
There’s already talk of an eventual Makhachev vs. Volkanovski rematch. Rather than age another 50 years, perhaps Khabib will step out of full retirement and help Islam out for the next one.
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