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Khabib Nurmagomedov earns first ESPY, takes home Best MMA Fighter award

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Congratulations are in order for the former UFC lightweight champion. 

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Khabib Nurmagomedov prior to his fight with Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Khabib Nurmagomedov prior to his fight with Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov is an ESPY winner.

The former UFC lightweight champion earned his first ESPY at the 2021 ESPY Awards after beating out the likes of current UFC champions Rose Namajunas, Amanda Nunes and Francis Ngannou in the Best MMA Fighter category. Nurmagomedov is just the second recipient of the MMA-specific award following its introduction at the 2019 ESPY Awards, where fellow former UFC champion and AKA teammate Daniel Cormier took home the silver trophy.

Nurmagomedov competed for the final time at UFC 254, where he met former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje in a title unification fight. The undefeated champion submitted Gaethje with a second-round triangle choke and re-unified the titles in what would turn out to be the last fight of his professional career. Nurmagomedov announced his decision to retire from mixed martial arts competition during his post-fight interview, leaving the sport with a perfect record of 29-0.

Although Nurmagomedov has admitted he misses fighting and been tempted by UFC president Dana White to return to the Octagon, the ‘Eagle’ is determined to abide by his decision to walk away, especially since it was at the request of his mother. Following the tragic passing of his father, Abdulmanap, Nurmagomedov said he made a promise to his mother that he would no longer fight without him in his corner. White officially accepted Nurmagomedov’s decision and the lightweight championship was vacated.

Nurmagomedov now spends his time helping his teammates at American Kickboxing Academy and completely embraces the role of coach. He has been seen cageside in recent months as part of the corners of up-and-coming names like Islam Makhachev and Said Nurmagomedov.

Another role Nurmagomedov has assumed in post-UFC life is that of fight promoter. He purchased a promotion in Russia known as Gorilla Fighting Championship (GFC) before relaunching it as Eagle Fighting Championship (EFC) in 2020.