14-Year-Old Nurmagomedov Watched Romero Wrestle In Dagestan
It turns out UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov got to witness a young Yoel Romero’s wrestling ability.
Romero challenges Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title at UFC 248 this weekend. Many believe the Cuban’s elite wrestling ability will play a role in determining the outcome of the fight.
After all, Romero is an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling and holds multiple wins over the great Cael Sanderson. Today, many of the top wrestlers in the UFC hail from Dagestan, Russia — most notably, the undefeated Nurmagomedov, who many currently view as the best in the sport.
And Romero believes it’s a product of the pedigree back home for Nurmagomedov.
“I don’t know if you know but the best for you, for everybody, for the world, the best city in the world for wrestling is Makhachkala, Dagestan,” Romero said at the UFC 248 media lunch (via MMA Fighting). “This place, everybody.
“I stayed for three months in this city when I was wrestling. I stayed three months in Dagestan. All in my division, six or seven world champions in Dagestan. Those six people for one of them to come out on top for the world championships or the Olympic games. You can’t imagine — six people, [all] world champions but you have that many people [to train with].”
Little did “The Soldier of God” know that during his time in Dagestan, a 14-year-old Nurmagomedov saw him compete in a wrestling tournament. It was only after Romero’s first UFC win that he came to meet the future lightweight king and learn about it.
“I remember the first time when I saw him [Nurmagomedov], he was in the United States, was at my first fight,” Romero said. “I finish the win, he went ‘hey Yoel, you remember me?’ and I said ‘no, who are you?’ He said ‘I am Khabib Nurmagomedov, I see you the first time when you stayed in Dagestan, a big tournament and I saw you and I was only 14 years old.’ I said, ‘oh really?’
“And he said ‘now I stay here, now I am a fighter for the UFC. I said ‘oh congratulations.’”
Nurmagomedov, now 31, has since dominated the competition and is currently the lightweight champion boasting a 28-0 record. Romero, meanwhile, will look to become a UFC champion for the first time in what could be his last attempt.