Lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired, and recently gave perhaps his most revealing interview ever, with Dan Owen for Esquire Middle East. “The Eagle” explained to Owen that he fights for himself, for his family, for his nation, and above all, for his faith.
“Faith means everything to me,” he said. “Faith teaches us that we should be content with what the Almighty gives. He gives, He takes, He predetermines how a person will live and how long he has to live. In this moment, faith helped me a lot, and without faith I don’t know how I would behave.”
“This is what we were created for, what we were born for—to worship the Almighty alone and for me faith is above sport, above all. I would also like my children, my loved ones, to be believers in one Almighty and to believe that only the Almighty can predetermine the fate of not only one person, but also all mankind. The worst thing is when a person worships something else along with the Almighty, inventing a deity for himself. Faith is above family, above everything else.”
And Nurmagomedov is very careful about how he wants to be seen.
“This influence weighs on me very much,” said the champ. “It is an influence that they put on me in as an example, as a person, and it bothers me very much. I would like people to see me as an example as an athlete who has achieved something. I do not want to be held up as an example of being a Muslim. It really annoys me. In our faith we already have someone to take an example from. This is a person who walked among us, a person who grew up among us and was the same person as everyone else—this is the Prophet Muhammad. I take example from him and other Muslims should take an example from him, and not from me or other famous personalities.”
“Life in the public eye is very stressful. I would like to live the ordinary life of an ordinary person, like I did 10 years ago. But now I have championship belts, from fights won by me. I understood that fame would come along with this, but I did not realize that it would be so difficult. It’s very hard to live like this and I would like to return to the calmness that was before I became famous.”
“The Eagle” followed his “Father’s Plan,” even after the revered Abdulamanap died of a heart condition complicated by COVID-19, in July of 2020. He cites his faith with carrying him through.
“If there was no faith [when my father died] I would probably have gone crazy,” he said. “There were some moments when I did not agree with him or my father did not agree with me, but we always found some kind of compromise and came to a resolution. There were many times when I used to not even understand why my father was telling me something at that moment. But he told me: ‘you just do, you will come to the result,’ and 80 percent of the time when I thought so, then I came to the final result and I realized that my father was right. And there are a lot of times when my father told me and even if I did not agree, then I just followed his instructions and the result was 90 percent positive and good for me.”
“I would not want people to associate him as a coach, as a person who developed wrestling or something else. My father had a lot of projects and the biggest thing he did was he brought up people, brought up a personality and he always told me: ‘The biggest and best investment is investing in people.’ There were a lot of relatives close, whom my father both supported and raised. There were many orphans who he watched over and cared for. So in this direction he left a very large legacy. A lot of people depended on him. Of course, it all depends on the Almighty, but he was the reason for this. So, I thought that he left a huge legacy and over time people will understand it even more.”
Frank Sinatra famously sang, “regrets, I’ve had a few.” Nurmagomedov does too.
“That we have to hurt our rivals to show our superiority, this is the only thing that bothers me in this sport,” he said. “In this regard, I really love football, because you can show by beauty how good an athlete you are. Inside the Octagon I am one person, outside I am a completely different person. Inside I have to show all my aggression, my readiness for any outcome of the fight, and I always set a goal to raise my hand as the victor, but outside the cage I am an ordinary person. As the saying goes: ‘To be, not to seem.’ In this regard, it is not difficult for me to be a good person. I am a good person, I think. The only thing you cannot include is what happens inside the Octagon. I’m not always good for my opponents.”
Owen asked Nurmagomedov about his greatest sporting moment; it was the win over Conor McGregor, who disparaged his faith, wife, father, and nation.
“I just ignored it and showed inside the Octagon that you can’t just wag your tongue, but you have to prove it with your body, which my opponent could not do,” he explained. “It was a great joy, because to some people, they thought that McGregor could not lose. A lot had been said, a lot. My whole career depended on this fight, and...when I won, it was as if a mountain fell from my shoulders. I don’t think it can be described in a few words. I wish everyone could feel for himself what that is like.”
What’s he doing now?
“I am involved in all sorts of different projects, building projects for the future,” he said. “This life is unfamiliar to me, but I am trying to get used to it.”
“Every day I woke up in the morning and started training, and in the evening my body was exhausted, because I had brought it to the limit. I just want to live a life in which I can get at least a little sleep before lunchtime, to live for myself and not devote myself 100 percent to sports.”
The what’s next question follows Nurmagomedov heavily, and becoming a full time coach is not the answer.
“Now that I’m not going to train any more, I have people close to me—brothers and friends—who are now fighting at the highest level,” he began. “There are about five or six people who we are building the path with, and I will help them, train with them, share my experiences. To some extent, this can be called a coaching life, but I am not going to fully enter into coaching. I will always be there and share my experience.”
Does he care about how he is remembered?
“ITime will pass and history will tell the story,” he said.
Any advice for the world?
“Time, is what people underestimate the most,” he said. “You can buy everything in this life, but you will never buy health and time. Time is very important. If you waste time, not using it correctly, not using it in the right direction, then you can never get it back. So, we must value time. Time is all we have, but it is neglected by so many people.”
And the greatest question on fan’s minds today - will he fight again?
“I think only time will answer this question,” he replied, adding, “we will see.”