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Chael Sonnen thinks Islam Makhachev could retire without Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner

Chael Sonnen considers the possibility of an early retirement for Islam Makhachev.

UFC 272: Holland v Oliveira
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev are seen in attendance at UFC 272.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Former UFC fighter turned MMA analyst Chael Sonnen thinks Islam Makhachev will struggle without Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner.

As a long-time training partner and close friend, it was expected that Nurmagomedov would be in Makhachev’s corner for his first lightweight title defense against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284. But that is no longer the case after Khabib announced last week that he has quit MMA coaching to spend more time with his family.

Without his mentor and coach in his corner in future bouts, Sonnen questions whether Makhachev will consider an early retirement, similar to how Nurmagomedov did after his last fight.

“I cannot realistically imagine a scenario where Islam Makhachev, in is career, goes into a bigger match,” Sonnen, a former three-time UFC title challenger, said on his YouTube channel (h/t Harvey Leonard). “These matches at this level, you’re talking about a game of inches. Who got more sleep the night before? They’re this close. Who warmed up appropriately? This feels to me like one heck of a matzah ball that just got sat down, that your trainer, mentor, and coach is not going to be training, mentoring, or coaching you. It feels like a big deal.”

“The way that Khabib dealt with that (absence of Abdulmanap). I have an obligation, I have already committed to something. I’m gonna see that through, and as soon as I do, I’m done.’ Is that how Islam Makhachev feels? Has Islam got an obligation, he’s gonna go out there and see it through, and when that match is over… It’s big speculation by me. But I’m asking the question.”

Khabib previously stated that Makhachev needs at least five title defenses before he retires, but without Nurmagomedov’s guidance and support in his corner, it will be interesting to see if Makhachev reconsiders his future in the sport.

UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski will take place on Feb. 12 at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.