Khabib reflects on cousin Umar's UFC debut

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is on his way out of fighting competitively. He may have one more fight, attempting to reach the 30-0 goal he and his father set. Or he may be prolonging his stay as long as possible in the hopes of passing the title to his friend and teammate Islam Makhachev. And other fighters from Dagestan are on the rise. Nine years to the day from Khabib's debut in the UFC, his cousin Umar Nurmagomedov had his first fight in the big show.

A bantamweight, Umar pushed his record to 13-0 at UFC Fight Island 8, with a performance bonus winning submission of former M-1 Global bantamweight champion Sergey Morozov. Khabib won his UFC debut with a Rear Naked choke in Round 3 pushing his record to 17-0; Umar won his debut with the same submission, in Round 2.

Following the death of his revered father Abdulmanap due to a heart condition and COVID-19 in July, Khabib has assumed responsibilities as head of household. He has also taken on an increased coaching role. Umar was critical of his debut performance, but Khabib was enthusiastic.

“I don’t think it would be good to criticize him now,” said Khabib. “When he was fighting I recalled my own first round in the UFC back in 2012 when I could not find my rhythm, my range, feel the Octagon. It takes time. He will grow with every single fight and I don’t want to rush. when you are just 25 you are definitely far from your full potential. When you are 28, 29, or 30, that’s the time we need to get him to reach his mental and physical peak. Now his physical condition may be at the maximum but mentally he is not there yet.

“Everything should come together at the very top of your potential just by the moment you will have the biggest fight of your career - your physique, your mentality, and your most important fight. That’s when you are set to make history. He is still very young now.”

“It’s very big, not only for us but for Umar. It’s good for him in terms of his emotional maturity. A very important experience to gain. Entering the octagon over and over again makes you a different animal, a different fighter. Today you could see how Umar rocked him and ran over him trying to finish the fight right away. He won’t make the same mistake in his tenth fight. He will be a sniper, not a machine gunner.”

“To be honest, I am very happy. It really feels like a load off my shoulders. It’s a very important win for our team and our family. We will keep working. It would be nice to have one more fight in Las Vegas this March. If not, we will fight after Ramadan. We have plenty of time ahead of us. Umar is just 25. Two more fights this year would be perfect.”

What did you think of the performance, UG? Could Umar become the next Khabib, in time?

h/t Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting