Khabib Nurmagomedov is playing his cards close to his chest.
The former UFC lightweight champion refrained from sharing his thoughts on the fall of Afghanistan and its capital, Kabul, to Taliban fundamentalists during a recent press conference in Russia.
“We have never have such a serious deal neither in Russian football, not in hockey,” Nurmagomedov, who was at the press conference to promote his five-year deal with energy drink giant Gorilla Energy, responded when asked about Afghanistan. “Today we have such a deal, and I wouldn’t like to discuss this political moment that happens thousands of kilometres away.”
Nurmagomedov, who remains one of the most popular Muslim athletes in the world alongside the likes of Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah, has long been outspoken about topics that involve Muslims. In October 2020, the fighter took aim at Emmanuel Macron, invoking the wrath of God on the French president over his comments about Islam after a high school teacher was beheaded in a Paris suburb for showing pupils caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson on free speech.
“May God disfigure the face of this scum and that of all his followers who, under the slogan of free speech, offended the feelings of over 1.5 billion Muslims,” Nurmagomedov wrote in an Instagram post alongside a picture of Macron with an imprint of a shoe on his face. “May the Almighty humiliate them in this life, and in the next. Allah is quick in calculation and you will see it.”
On Sunday, Aug. 15, the Taliban—a designated terrorist organization—successfully reached Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul after taking control of the vast majority of the country government-controlled holdouts, including Kunduz and Kandahar, in less than 10 days. The successful capture of Kabul marked the final stage of the militant group’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Nurmagomedov’s refusal to comment on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan drew ire from Afghan fans, many of whom left angry messages on the fighter’s Instagram page.
“You have lost your Afghan fans,” read one of the comments beneath a photo of Khabib alongside F-1 driver Nikita Mazepin. “Now you are nothing to them.”