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Fighter reveals time Khabib cried over almost losing unbeaten record

The Eagle’s storied perfect record in MMA almost never happened.

Khabib Nurmagomedov after his tight win over Gleison Tibau at UFC 148.
Khabib Nurmagomedov after his tight win over Gleison Tibau at UFC 148.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA in 2020. He left the sport with the UFC lightweight title, top spot on the men’s pound for pound rankings, and a perfect record of 29-0.

However, that almost never happened. With Nurmagomedov’s talent there was always a good chance he would become a UFC champion. However, the long undefeated record came very close to being broken before it really began.

In just his second UFC appearance Nurmagomedov won a unanimous decision over Gleison Tibau. Though, many onlookers think the fight, which happened at UFC 148 in 2012, should have been scored for the Brazilian.

MMA Decisions recorded that, despite each judge scoring the bout 30-27 to Nurmagomedov, five of six listed media scores had the fight going for Tibau (mostly with scores of 30-27 in his favour).

Fight Metric shows why those media members might have sided with Tibau. Tibau landed more significant and total strikes than Nurmagomedov and his accuracy was seven-percent better on significant strikes (thirteen-percent better in total strikes). Tibau also had a takedown in the fight (on six attempts), whereas Nurmagomedov went 0-13 on takedowns.

Despite Tibau being ahead of Nurmagomedov in all those stats, the Dagestani had far more “control time” in the fight (4:26 vs. 0:17).

When the judges’ official scores were read on the night, leading to Mario Yamasaki raising Nuamrgomedov’s hand, Nurmagomedov broke down in tears. The display of emotion from the usually stoic Nurmagomedov may be a sign that he also thought his perfect record was close to being marred.

Tibau, 38, is still competing. He faces Jarrah Al-Silawi at PFL 3 this weekend. During a media appearance for that event he spoke to MMA Mania about the night he almost beat Nurmagomedov.

“People are always like, ‘Man! You win this fight, you win this fight.’ Okay, thank you, thank you,” he said. “Everybody tells [me about] this fight because it was a very tough fight, a very close fight. I think I [hit] more punches, more takedowns, I don’t know what happened, I think I win this fight, too.

“It was a big surprise for me, a big surprise for Khabib, too. I talked to my coaches, ‘Tough fight, but yeah, you win.’ I remember the referee upped the arm for Khabib. Man! Everybody surprised, Khabib crying, crazy. I never forgot this time because now [he’s a] big name, tough guy, kills everybody like it’s an easy fight. This fight was very, very tough, very close.”

Tibau’s record currently stands at 37-15. He left the UFC in 2018 after 28 fights with the promotion and wins over Rafael dos Anjos, Francisco Trinaldo, Jeremy Stephens and Caol Uno.

After leaving the UFC he fought for Golden Boy Promotions and Battlefield FC before landing with the PFL. In the 2021 season he lost to Joao Zeferino and then beat Rory MacDonald (in a close decision) and Micah Terrill.