Khabib Nurmagomedov has no doubts that he’ll be seeing the UFC lightweight title once again in the near future.
Nurmagomedov retired as the UFC lightweight champion following his submission win over Justin Gaethje in October 2020. That victory came months after his father and trainer, Abdulmanap, passed away at age 57 following a battle with COVID-19. After defending the belt one last time Nurmagomedov revealed that he had told his mother his fight with Gaethje would be his last.
The ‘Eagle’ has since transitioned seamlessly in to a coaching role. And on October 22, he’ll be Octagon side to corner Islam Makhachev for his title fight against former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC 280. Oliveira lost the belt onto the scale in May when he failed to make weight for his own scheduled title defense against Gaethje. The Brazilian won that bout via first-round submission.
Nurmagomedov recently spoke to UFC Russia about the upcoming UFC 280 matchup between his protege and ‘Do Bronx’.
“I think Islam is more skilled than Oliveira,” Nurmagomedov said in an interview with UFC Russia (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Secondly, his experience as an amateur fighter. Also, he’s at his peak. Islam is at his peak. Islam isn’t 23, 26 or 27. He’s 30. A week after the fight, he’ll be 31. It’s the best time for any athlete. It’s a time when your mental and physical state should be in synergy. Sometimes your mental state is high, but your physical state is going down.
“Or when you’re 27 and at your physical peak, but mentally you’re not there yet, because you’re just 27, not 31. And Islam is at his peak. I think Islam is better overall. Of course, there are some potential dangers that we’re working on where Islam needs to be careful. Other than that, Islam should roll over him.”
The 31-year-old Makhachev brings a 22-1 record to his matchup against Oliveira. His only loss was an October 2015 knockout setback to Adriano Martins. Makhachev has won 10 straight fights in the years since. His most recent victory was a February TKO win over Bobby Green in a 160-pound catchweight fight. Green took that bout on short notice, replacing the injured Beneil Dariush.
Only two years older than Makhachev, the 32-year-old Oliveira has a substantial edge in experience. The Chute Boxe Diego Lima athlete has a career record of 33-8 (1 NC). The ex-champ has the longest current winning streak in the UFC’s lightweight division with 11 consecutive victories. His May submission win over Gaethje was his most recent triumph. Before that, he successfully defended the UFC 155-pound title with a submission win over Dustin Poirier.
UFC 280 takes place at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNEWS. If either Oliveira or Makhachev can’t make it to the Octagon on fight night, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski has been tabbed to play the role of short notice replacement.