As a fighter, former UFC champion and recent Hall of Fame inductee Khabib Nurmagomedov is as stoic as they come. The only time he publicly showed some emotions happened right after he defeated Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 two years ago.
But as he told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto after UFC 280 over the weekend, he was overrun by nerves during Islam Makhachev’s title fight with Charles Oliveira in the main event.
“Very nervous. Because, brother, like, I watch (Islam) all his life last 20 years, the way how we work so hard. Amateur career, professional career.
“This is very hard sport. Anytime, anything can happen. Look at Kamaru Usman. He was winning all five rounds, boom. One time, finish. He lose his belt.
“Same thing (with Islam). Anytime, anything can happen. Charles is so good, he’s high-level fighter. And of course, I was very nervous, because I love this guy. We grew up together. He was my father favorite student.”
Khabib has long touted his longtime teammate as pretty much a GOAT in the making. So it was a symbolic moment for him to wrap the belt around Makhachev’s waist himself.
“That’s why I told Dana, ‘Brother, I have to give him this belt because I don’t lose belt.’ Because I know I’m the champion ’til this day, before Islam become champion.
“I come to Dana. ‘Brother, I have to put.’ He say, ‘No problem, take. This is yours. This is Dagestani belt.’”
According to Khabib, they are willing to fight anyone anywhere because Islam is “ready for anybody.”
“What next? Perth? Sydney? Whatever. Rio de Janeiro? We need locations, brother. Manila? Let’s go.
“People remember how Muhammad Ali fight in Congo. They remember how they fly to (the Philippines). Let’s go. Let’s go to fight in Manila.”