The MMA world was taken by surprise when Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after UFC 254 in October 2020. At the age of 32 and at the peak of his prime, the undefeated “Eagle” decided it was time to hang it up.
At the time, the primary reason was the sudden death of his father and longtime mentor Abdulmanap. But apparently, Khabib was already feeling his competitive fire dwindle during the last few years of his career.
“For this sport, you have to be hungry. If you’re not hungry, if you don’t want really this, you have to finish (your career),” Khabib said in his recent appearance on the Full Send podcast. “For example, last couple years, I really don’t enjoy this. Even when I fight with Conor, it was very, like, principle fight for me. Like, I really want to fight with this guy.
“Next day, when I finish, after this, I really don’t enjoy with this. When I (began my career), I really wanna fight, fight, fight. Then fight for the title. I win title, my fire beginning go down.”
Khabib served a nine-month suspension after his UFC 229 post-fight brawl with team Conor McGregor in 2018. He returned to action a year later to face Dustin Poirier, a fight he also won dominantly. During this time, Khabib says his only motivation was having his father in his corner for the first time in his UFC run.
“All this year (I was suspended), I was keep training, and I’m like, ‘What I’m gonna do next? I’m gonna fight with who?’ Then, they make interim title (between) Dustin Poirier (and) Max Holloway,” he said.
“I remember they was fighting, and I was waiting my opponent. OK, Dustin Poirier beat this guy, I’m like, ‘Nothing inside. OK, I’m gonna fight with you.’ It was the first time my father gonna be corner me in UFC career, and this one gave me little bit more motivation.
“This sport, if you don’t feel fire, you have to stop.”
Khabib, now 33, has since been adamant about staying away from professional competition. These days, he’s more focused on running his very own Eagle FC, which he expects to be the next big thing in MMA promotion.