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Former UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov believes MMA is in ‘decline’

“I think there has been a slight dip in MMA.” 

UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Induction Ceremony Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov has some reservations about the sport he dominated for several years.

During a recent interview with UFC Russia, the former UFC lightweight champion was asked to comment on the “opinion that MMA peaked and is now stagnating a little.” After pausing to gather his thoughts, Nurmagomedov suggested that the sport was potentially facing a “decline.”

“Maybe it seems that way to me because the fire inside me went out to some extent, but I think there has been a slight dip in MMA” Nurmagomedov said. “That’s my perspective. Maybe I’m wrong. I think the flame went out a little and there is a slight decline.”

In the two years since his retirement from professional fighting, the former UFC champion has immersed himself in various ventures outside of the cage. He started his own fight league called Eagle FC, combat sports gyms, a sports management agency, the Eagle Mobile cellphone network, and a chain of fast food restaurants. His portfolio of investments also extends beyond the Russian Federation to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.

Nurmagomedov has also found time to coach his longtime teammates ahead of some of the biggest fights of their careers. The former champ is currently in Abu Dhabi, where he will corner his cousin Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Zubaira Tukhugov ahead of their respective fights at UFC 280. He will also be in the corner of his protégé Islam Makhachev, who will face Charles Oliveira to determine the next lightweight champion.

Yet despite his own waning interest in watching MMA, Nurmagomedov believes there “will always be stars” in the sport, especially if the UFC is there to promote them.

“The UFC PR machine is very powerful,” Nurmagomedov said. “Say what you will but they have created a very powerful machine in the last 30 years. They’ll ignite the flame.”