Khabib Nurmagomedov Threatened to ‘Rip Up’ UFC Contract to Get His Friend a Fight

Nurmagomedov went to great lengths to get Zubaira Tukhugov booked on UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Courtesy of @UFCNews on X

Khabib Nurmagomedov was ready to throw away a big payday for one of his boys.

Capturing the UFC lightweight title in an unlikely short-notice scrap with Al Iaquinta at UFC 223, ‘The Eagle’ quickly became one of the promotion’s top stars. Of course, his intense rivalry with Irish megastar Conor McGregor certainly helped move things along for the undefeated Hall of Famer.

Nurmagomedov’s first defense of the 155-pound crown came at UFC 229 — the hottest-selling pay-per-view in promotional history.

On that night, Nurmagomedov put his title up for grabs against the returning McGregor in a bout that had a historically intense build-up. ‘The Eagle’ walked away with the victory, submitting McGregor in the fourth round via a rear-naked choke — but that was far from the end of things.

Immediately after the stoppage, Nurmagomedov hopped the fence and attacked members of McGregor’s corner. Specifically, Dillon Danis.

Inside the cage, Nurmagomedov’s friend and training partner Zubaira Tukhugov took a cheap shot at McGregor, kickstarting yet another brawl. Tukhugov was fined and suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission along with being released by the UFC.

However, it wasn’t long before Tukhugov was eventually re-signed by the organization at the behest of Nurmagomedov.

“Nobody has ever revealed it,” Tukhugov told Aslanbek Badaev of Red Corner MMA. “I got suspended. My contract was terminated. Khabib said, ‘Zubaira will fight first then I will fight, too.’ After the McGregor fight, the UFC really needed Khabib. So, they gave me a new contract. They also promised to put me on the Abu Dhabi card with Khabib and Islam [Makhachev].”

Khabib Nurmagomedov Offered His PPV Spot to Tukhugov

Looking to load up the UFC 242 card with some big names, the promotion booked both Nurmagomedov and his eventual successor, Islam Makhachev for the UAE-based event. Tukhugov was also featured as part of the prelims, but as it turns out, he was never part of the promotion’s original plan. 

“Dana White said that they had no room for me on that card,” Tukhugov continued. “So, they were going to let me fight in Moscow. He tried to make Khabib change his mind, but Khabib was like, ‘Okay, I am going to rip this contract up now. I will give my spot on the card to Zubaira if you don’t have it for him.’

“It was his first really good payday. I said, ‘Please don’t do that.’ Then [UFC CBO] Hunter [Campbell] called me and said he respected Khabib’s decision and decided to remove a few fights to let me on the card. That’s how I managed to be part of the event.”

Tukhugov squared off with Lerone Murphy at the event, fighting to a split draw. He would compete four more times under the UFC banner since then, going 2-2 in the process. His most recent appearance came in February 2023 where he dropped a split decision against Elves Brener. 

He was released from the promotion shortly after.

Published on April 25, 2024 at 11:26 am
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