2023 opened up with Khabib Nurmagomedov stepping away from the sport. “The Eagle,” who has since focused his efforts on fight promotion and coaching since his retirement in 2020, is taking an indefinite sabbatical to spend more time with his family.
That also means Khabib won’t be there to help longtime comrade Islam Makhachev in his first title defense at UFC 284 against Alexander Volkanovski. Makachev confirmed the news in a recent interview with FOX Sports Australia, and he doesn’t see it as a potential problem.
“Because when the cage door close, no one is there for you,” he said.
“Of course, it’s going to be different. But I’ve already fought without him a couple of times. And he cannot always be with me.
“Of course, it’s very good when he is here. I always like when he is with me because he knows all the games being played. He knows what you need for the fight, for the weight cut, you don’t have to worry about any of this.
“It’s always good when you have someone as experienced as him. You don’t have to spend your energy thinking about other things.”
Makhachev has seen Khabib’s hustle in his post-career endeavors and understands the former champ’s decision to take some time off.
“I understand that he has to spend more time with his family,” Makhachev said of Khabib. “Because with all the fighting, the training, his family miss him too. Even though he is retired he’s still traveling a lot.
“That’s why I understand (the decision).”
From his end, Volkanovksi hopes Khabib’s absence won’t be brought up in the conversation, should he end up victorious.
“They better not use it as an excuse once this is all done,” he said in the same interview. “At the end of the day, Makhachev will prepare and we’re going to fight.
“He doesn’t need someone to hold his hand. Doesn’t need someone to be in there with him. That’s not a real fighter.
“So when my hand gets raised, that better not come up.”
UFC 284 happens on February 12 in Perth, Australia. Co-headlining the event is an interim featherweight title bout between Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett.
About the author: Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments. (full bio)