The other week we told you about Sami Zayn, the Muslim wrestler who’s hoping his time in the WWE will help people better understand his faith. If you prefer your combat sports slightly less, shall we say, dramatised, but you still want to root for a proud Muslim who’s making folks take notice, then you need to know about Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov is a mixed martial artist from the Dagestan region of Russia and a devout Muslim. This Saturday 4 March at UFC 209 in Las Vegas, he’s taking on American Tony Ferguson for a shot at the interim lightweight title. Not to sound biased or anything, but here’s why we think he’s going to win.
Khabib has been in 24 professional fights, and he’s won all of them. His background is in wrestling and judo, meaning he’s a formidable opponent when the bout descends to the mat. However, he’s also pretty good at lamping fighters in the face, because eight of his contests have ended in knockout.
Khabib’s prowess is largely down to his father and mentor Abdulmanap, who showed him the ropes from a young age. His dad is an army veteran and former judo champion himself, so it’s little wonder Khabib spent his childhood running around the streets of Dagestan getting into fights. It’s in his blood. When Khabib grew a little large for unregulated street brawling, Abdulmanap decided to channel his aggression in a more official setting.
Professional success soon followed.
Nurmagomedov fought a Bear as a Nine-Year-Old. A BEAR.
One of Abdulmanap’s more unorthodox training methods involved getting a nine-year-old Khabib to fight a bear. Granted, it was a young bear, but it’s hard to imagine such willful neglect for your own son would fly in Tony Ferguson’s native California.
The small Khabib’s fearlessness in the face of a small bear no doubt explains the grown Khabib’s fearlessness in the face of grown men. Tony who?
He Wants a Shot at Conor McGregor
Khabib is so confident in his abilities – and he has the record to back it up – that he doesn’t seem that concerned about his fight with Ferguson on Saturday. It’s going to be easy. What he really wants is a shot at the biggest name in the sport, Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.
The Irishmen is undoubtedly the current face of UFC, and you could argue that Khabib won’t be remembered as one of the all-time greats until he beats him. Let’s hope it happens. But until then, we can admire Khabib for doing what all great fighters do in the modern era: calling people out on Twitter:
He’ll be the First Muslim UFC Champion
Khabib has previously turned down UFC bouts as he was observing Ramadan. He’s a fine example of a Muslim athlete who balances religion and their sport, and now that he’s got a shot we’re sure he’s going to emerge as the first Muslim UFC champion.
It will be true testament to a life of hard work and spiritual dedication.
You can catch Tony Ferguson v. Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209 on Saturday 4 March.