Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov was born September 20, 1988 in Dagestan, Russia. He holds a black belt in Judo and is ranked ‘International Master of Sport’ in Judo, Sambo, Army Hand-to-Hand Combat. and Pankration.
He trains at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) under coach Javier Mendez and formerly, his late, beloved father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
“The Eagle” retired with a perfect 29-0 record at UFC 254 (on 24th October, 2020) and departed from MMA as the UFC Lightweight Champion and no.1-ranked pound-for-pound UFC fighter.
From humble beginnings deep in the mountains of Dagestan, Khabib was trained by his late father Abdulmanap from a young age. The strict martial arts household promoted hard work for high rewards. If young Khabib asked for pocket money, Abdulmanap’s answer was “Did you do something to earn it?”
In 7th grade, Khabib was asked to move schools due to his lack of English language skills. Suffice to say his former headmaster would repeatedly apologise to Abdulmanap whenever he saw “The Eagle” giving full interviews in English for the UFC! Khabib’s younger sister also suffered the same fate at school due to her lack of English skills. She battled against the setback too by studying foreign languages intensively and becoming an English teacher. How’s that for the Nurmagomedov mentality?
Growing up in Dagestan, Khabib’s fighting and training experience was moulded by his harsh surroundings. From wrestling bears, to 5 vs. 5 supermarket brawls, the Dagestani lifestyle hardened him into the matchless champion he would eventually become.
Interestingly, “smesh”, the noun that Khabib originated (meaning ‘a code of honour and way of life’) has passed into MMA -if not the wider urban- vernacular as superior to ‘smashing’ as it improves the thing acted upon.
However, Khabib’s meteoric rise to the top wasn’t always smooth sailing. A torn meniscus halted a matchup with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in 2014 and again in 2015. Nurmagomedov’s saga of booked-then-cancelled fights with Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson was almost beyond belief; axed in the past by a rib injury and weight cut complications for Khabib as well as a torn knee ligament for Tony, the COVID-19 pandemic cancellation (UFC 249, on April 18, 2020) was the fifth booking to fall through.
Despite his injury setbacks, “The Eagle” rose above every challenge he encountered with his elite-level mentality. As a football fan (a sport he actually prefers to MMA) he drew inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo’s reign at the top of the sport. Khabib credits the inner energy, motivation, and discipline of Ronaldo for his successes. Nobody can argue that the Dagestani hasn’t replicated that in MMA!
Khabib called his father ‘a lion on his back’ and despite his passing on July 3, 2020, his legacy roars on. If Khabib hasn’t done enough already, his Dagestani countrymen, such as Islam Makhachev (19-1), Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0), and Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0) sure will. In retirement, “The Eagle” now corners his family and teammates, carrying his father’s legacy onward.
So…without further ado, let’s take an Eagle-eyed view of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Top 5 MMA Finishes (Part 1)! in descending order…
5. Vs. Michael Johnson – UFC 205 (Nov. 12, 2016)
With Michael “The Menace” Johnson coming off a first round K.O. of Dustin Poirier, Khabib still came into this lightweight title eliminator a -325 favourite.
Conor McGregor was to attempt ‘champ-champ’ status against Eddie Alvarez in the main event whilst the welterweight, and women’s strawweight titles were also being contested. As a result, Nurmagomedov vs. Johnson was somehow relegated to the prelims.
Round 1 saw Khabib rocked early on by two heavy left hooks before he tested Johnson’s 81% takedown defence and tripped him into side control from the clinch. “The Eagle” cycled Johnson through his coveted, special ground and pound treatment, complete with Dagestani handcuffs and crushing pressure.
Round 2 began with more looping left hooks from Johnson but this time he missed. Khabib chain wrestled his way into a takedown attempt, however he got ensnared in a guillotine choke.
Johnson opted to pull full guard, which he would soon regret. Nurmagomedov slipped out of the choke, passed guard with ease, and returned to the ground and pound cycle from a crucifix position. “The Eagle” taunted Johnson, saying “Let’s go, Michael. You have to get up, Michael.” All while ‘smeshing’ his face into the canvas.
In round 3, the two opened up, swinging wildly before the inevitable takedown into a ground and pound masterclass. Khabib mounted his opponent, trapping Johnson’s right arm with his legs, leaving only one hand to defend himself. The mid-fight chatter continued with Khabib stating “You have to give up. I need to fight for the title. You know this I deserve.” Chilling.
Whilst threatening an arm triangle, Khabib passed into side control, upgraded to a crucifix, and locked up a kimura. After slowly increasing the pressure on Johnson’s shoulder, taking care not to break it, “The Eagle” got the tap at 2 minutes, 31 seconds of round 3.
This extremely technical kimura would rank the 14th ‘Best Submission of the Year 2016’, on Tapology.
Post-fight, Khabib would call out none other than Conor McGregor who would become lightweight champion later that night: “ I want to fight your chicken! This is number one easy fight in the lightweight division.” Go figure.
4. Vs. Thiago Tavares – UFC on FX 7 (Jan. 19, 2013)
After Khabib sported a t-shirt reading “If Sambo was easy it would be called Jiu-Jitsu” at the weigh-ins for this fight, he was public enemy number one in Tavares’ native Brazil.
Considering Tavares came in with a 17-4-1 record (with 11 wins by submission), Khabib still emerged as a moderate -200 favourite in his pursuit of a 19th consecutive victory.
As Khabib’s name was announced in the octagon, he was, unsurprisingly met with boos. Would he anger the Brazilian fans further or change their minds about his Russian Sambo?
Round 1 saw Tavares claim the centre of the octagon with Nurmagomedov backing up. “The Eagle” landed a looping left uppercut followed by an overhand right, which would prove priceless moments later.
Tavares pressed forward with a leg kick and a head kick that proved ineffective. He then attempted a jab-cross combination that Khabib countered with his own jab-cross, finding some success.
A carbon copy looping left uppercut straight down the centre from Khabib dropped Tavares to the canvas. “The Eagle” followed up with a barrage of elbows from a postured up top half guard position. A few more were landed for good measure as Tavares fell unconscious and the referee stepped in at 1 minute, 55 seconds of round 1.
Testament to his performance, Khabib was applauded by the previously hostile crowd in addition to this fight being ranked the 20th ‘Best MMA Knockout of the Year, 2013’, on Tapology.
An unfortunate post-fight addition to this bout is that Tavares tested positive for the anabolic steroid ‘drostanolone’, resulting in a 9-month suspension.
3. Vs. Dustin Poirier – UFC 242 (Sept. 7, 2019)
This fight marked the lightweight title unification after Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier defeated featherweight champ Max “Blessed” Holloway for the interim lightweight title at UFC 236 (on April 13, 2019).
Khabib came into his first fight in almost a year, a heavy -500 betting favourite. It would also mark his first UFC fight with his father Abdulmanap finally in his corner, delayed due to visa issues entering the U.S.
“The Eagle” admitted that Dustin Poirier is a tough guy, but his plan was still the same: “I’m gonna wrestle with him all night, make him tired, and make him tap.”
Poirier was lively at the start of round 1, investing in leg kicks and hanging on for dear life with a takedown defence. However, once the obligatory takedown was landed, Khabib began his tried and tested ground and pound cycle, threatening some close choke attempts that Poirier survived.
Round 2 saw Poirier land a heavy right hand and wobble Khabib, piling on combinations to chase a finish that just wasn’t there. A double leg takedown from Khabib, and he was back in his comfort zone, locking up Dustin’s legs and landing punches that opened up a cut over Poirier’s left eye.
Poirier managed to lock up a standing guillotine choke whilst being crushed against the fence by “The Eagle”, but had to abandon it.
In round 3, Khabib nailed a double leg takedown only to land in another guillotine choke. This time it was tight! With Poirier holding the choke from bottom half guard, Khabib rolled to his side and turned his hip out, buying himself more time. Somehow this fully sunk-in guillotine didn’t quite possess the finishing power to topple Nurmagomedov.
Popping out of the choke with a roar from the crowd, Khabib immediately took top position, tying Dustin up with the Dagestani handcuffs. Taking Poirier’s back, “The Eagle” cinched in a rear naked choke and got the tap at 2 minutes, 6 seconds of round 3.
Khabib earned a $50,000 ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus and this fight was ranked the 21st ‘Best MMA Submission of the Year, 2019’, on Tapology. The broadcast was viewed by 26 million people in Russia – an impressive 24% of the country’s adult population.
After the fight, Khabib announced that he was selling his t-shirt for Dustin’s charity, ‘The Good Fight Foundation’, and the whopping $100K donation was matched by Dana White, giving the charity a total of $234K raised in total.
2. Vs. Justin Gaethje – UFC 254 (Oct. 24, 2020)
This fight would mark Khabib’s last fight before retirement as well as his first since the death of his father.
After Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje won the interim lightweight title against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 (on May 10, 2020), Khabib still came into the unification bout a moderate -275 favourite.
Round 1 saw Gaethje come out in a low stance, anticipating the takedown from the outset. He invested in leg kicks early on as promised, but conceded the centre of the octagon to Nurmagomedov who pressured forward.
Gaethje dealt well with Khabib’s takedown attempts and landed a handful of good shots, the best of which was a right body hook followed by a left hook upstairs. As always however, it was only a matter of time before “The Eagle” shot a double leg takedown, turned the corner and progressed to mount with the help of his patented Dagestani handcuffs.
Transitioning to an S-mount, Khabib launched a late armbar attempt but Justin defended well by holding onto Khabib’s hamstring.
In round 2, Gaethje conceded the centre again but managed to land a powerful left hand behind Khabib’s ear and some solid leg kicks that would ordinarily break another man’s will…but not Khabib’s.
He countered another leg kick with a takedown and swiftly transitioned from the back to mount, posturing into another S-mount. He sat back into another armbar attempt and adjusted into a triangle choke.
In a last-ditch attempt, Gaethje stacked Khabib and slammed him onto the canvas. However, Khabib’s hook on Justin’s left leg was glued in position. Gaethje fell unconscious in the choke, prompting the referee to step in at 1 minute, 34 seconds of round 2.
Daniel Cormier would later reveal that the armbar into triangle choke was Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s favourite submission. On top of that, Khabib knew Justin wouldn’t tap to submissions after comments during fight week, so he opted for a choke due to Gaethje’s parents being in attendance.
Khabib earned a $50,000 ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus, and this bout was ranked the 44th ‘Best MMA Fight of the Year, 2020’ in addition to the 5th ‘Best Submission of the Year 2020’, on Tapology.
In his post-fight speech, an emotional Khabib requested the no.1-ranking on the pound-for-pound list. He followed with his reason for retirement in Russian: “Alhamdulillah (praise be to God). If you have parents, be close to them. That’s all. I only have one parent left, my mother. I want to spend more time with her.”
1. Vs. Conor McGregor – UFC 229 (Oct. 6, 2018)
This fight marked Khabib’s first lightweight title defence since winning the vacant belt against Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 (on April 7, 2018).
The build-up was shrouded in controversy due to McGregor’s attack on a bus that contained Khabib and his teammates at UFC 223 as well as a barrage of trash talk about Nurmagomedov’s family, religion, and nation.
Khabib stated pre-fight that he wanted to make McGregor humble, slap him, and make him tired. Only then, after enough punishment, did he plan to choke the Irishman out.
Round 1 was business as usual. Conor landed his ‘notorious’ left hand to no effect before eventually being taken down off a chain wrestling sequence. Ground and pound ensued with McGregor intelligently defending by finding frames against Khabib’s relentless top pressure and recovering his guard.
In round 2, Khabib landed an overhand right out of nowhere and dropped McGregor, followed by a flying knee that narrowly missed. With a high crotch single leg takedown, Khabib returned the action to the canvas to dish out another generous serving of ground and pound.
Despite McGregor returning to his feet clinched against the cage and intelligently garnering a two-on-one hand grip to prevent further takedowns, Khabib still dominated the round.
Round 3 against McGregor was arguably the only round that Khabib lost in his entire 29-0 career. Conor pressured forward, landing consistently and defending Khabib’s takedown attempts perfectly with his two-on-one grip fighting again.
With “The Eagle” struggling to keep up with the striking battle and finding no success in the grappling realms, the tide looked as though it could well turn. As the round ended, Khabib shouted at McGregor “Hey! Let’s talk!” and complained to the referee about glove holding in Conor’s takedown defence.
Round 4 began with McGregor landing punches to the head, and stabbing kicks to the body before Khabib decided enough was enough. Landing a trip off a well-defended takedown attempt, Khabib transitioned from the back into mount and threatened an arm triangle choke.
McGregor was wise to the submission attempt but exposed his back in the process. Khabib clamped on, and backed up against the fence, squeezing a neck crank with a modified Gable grip on the Irishman until the tap came at 3 minutes, 3 seconds of round 4.
In the aftermath, Khabib launched himself into the crowd at Dillon Danis – McGregor’s BJJ training partner and corner man – and unloaded his pent-up frustration at the circus leading up to the fight.
At the post-fight press conference, Khabib answered no questions but apologised for his actions, saying simply: “I know my father gonna smesh me when I go home.”
Despite its controversy, the fight holds the highest MMA PPV buys of all time in the U.S. (24 million), was ranked the 13th ‘Best MMA Fight of the Year, 2018’, and 16th ‘‘Greatest Lightweight MMA Fight of all Time’, on Tapology.
Khabib’s submission was ranked the 12th ‘Best MMA Submission of the Year, 2018′ and 76th ‘Greatest Submission of all Time’, on Tapology too. It certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon.