Khabib Nurmagomedov explains why he believes now is the right time for Islam Makhachev to become champion.
There has not been a bigger advocate for Islam Makhacev over the course of his UFC than his teacher Khabib Nurmagomedov. These two men used to train together and have been on similar journeys since childhood. Now that Nurmagomedov is retired from fighting, he is focused on making those around him better. He has stepped into the shoes of his late father and become a coach to some of the most promising young athletes in the world of MMA today.
One of his highest-ranked pupils is Makhachev. The rise of Makhachev over the years is due in part to the tutelage of Nurmagomedov and his team. He will now have the opportunity to step up and win his very first UFC title when he takes on former champ Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 on Oct. 22. Nurmagomedov recently sat down for an interview with UFC Russia and explained why now is the perfect time for Makhachev to become the lightweight champion.
“First of all his skills, I think Islam is more skilled than Oliveira. Secondly, his experience as an amateur fighter, also he is at his peak, Islam is at his peak. Islam isn’t 23, 26 or 27, he’s 30. One week after the fight he’ll be 31, it’s the best time for any athlete,” he said. “It’s a time when your mental and physical state should be in synergy. Sometimes your mental state is high but your physical state is going down or when you’re 27 and at your physical peak but mentally you’re not there yet, because you’re just 27, not 31. Islam is at this peak. I think Islam is better overall.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov knows the skills of his friend, Makhachev, will surpass those of Oliveira but means no disrespect in saying so
Nurmagomedov has been Makhachev’s biggest cheerleader in the leadup to this bout. He has been praising his trainee in the media and has also responded to some trash talk from the opposition. He has caught some heat in the process but remains true to the fact that he says everything with respect. Now he is once again, respectfully, stating that he knows Makhachev is the better fighter.
“Of course, there are some potential dangers that we’re working on where Islam needs to be careful,” he said. “Other than that Islam should roll over him. That’s my opinion, somebody might not like it but again I’m just stating my opinion. People say that’s disrespectful but I see no disrespect here. October 22 we want to get over him.”
On “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, the man with the better skills and game plan will come out on top and have that shiny UFC lightweight strap wrapped around their waist. Nurmagomedov knows that man will be his teammate, and as his cornerman will be right there beside him for his historic moment.