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Ex-UFC champ Khabib reveals the opponents he was ‘very careful’ not to permanently damage

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Khabib Nurmagomedov spoke about his sometimes careful application of submissions during his UFC tenure.

Khabib Nurmagomedov - EFC 36 Eagle Fighting Championship in Kazan, Russia
Khabib Nurmagomedov at EFC 36 in Kazan, Russia.
Photo by Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov did what few in MMA ever do, leave while on top. The Eagle walked away from the sport with a flawless 29-0 record, the UFC lightweight title and the top spot on the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings.

And it seems the Dagestani is still thrilled with his decision to call it a day when he did (despite UFC President Dana White’s best efforts). Outside of the cage Nurmagomedov has been busy getting his own promotion—Eagle Fight Club—off the ground and nurturing his friends and family as they attempt to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

Nurmagomedov has also been doing media related to his various interests. Last week, at a press conference for EFC, Nurmagomedov spoke about some of his old wars inside the Octagon. Specifically, he discussed the two times he was careful inside the cage so not to cause permanent damage to his opponents.

Those two occasions were in his fights with Michael Johnson and Justin Gaethje.

Against Gaethje in 2020, which would be Nurmagomedov’s final fight, Numagomedov claimed that he made adjustments so not to seriously damage his opponent’s hand. He also said Gaethje’s parents being close-by influenced how he fought.

“First, I went for [Gaethje’s] arm, and only then I moved on to the triangle choke,” said Nurmagomedov (ht sportskeeda). “I realized, he would not give up and I didn’t want to cripple his hand. So I went for the triangle choke. His parents were there in attendance, his father, his the front row. Footage doesn’t show it but when I entered the cage I could see them sitting there and looking at me.”

Nurmagomedov finished the fight with Gaethje with that triangle choke, choking the American unconscious to score the second round technical submission victory and defend his lightweight belt for the third and final time.

When talking about the 2016 fight with Johnson, Nurmagomedov said he was careful when having Johnson locked in a deep kimura.

“When I trapped his hand and went for Kimura, I could have broken his arm. I told him to give up two or three times. I was executing the move very carefully because if you break an arm that way it will never be the same. So I was very careful, rolling it very slowly and just asked him to give it up.”

Johnson tapped to the kimura in the third round after a prolonged ground and pound beating from the future champ.

Nuromagomedov won 11 of his 29 fights via submission. It comes as no surprise that Nurmagomedov didn’t mention Conor McGregor as an opponent he took it easy on.

When those two bitter rivals met at UFC 229, Nurmagomedov submitted the Irishman with a neck crank and then proceeded to scold him while he sat on the canvas. Shortly after Nurmagomedov launched himself from the cage to brawl with McGregor’s corner. That brawl spilled over into the cage and was also mimicked by fans of both fighters across the T-Mobile Arena.