Khabib Nurmagomedov is undeniably one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time … but is he the very best?
Lightweight’s Dagestani smashing machine retired in Oct. 2020 after amassing an unprecedented 29-fight win streak with zero defeats in his career. Since then, Nurmagomedov has unsurprisingly flourished as a talented coach to several of his fellow countryman, and even some outsiders like Chicago, Illinois’ Belal Muhammad.
The top Welterweight contender’s last win was arguably his best performance, defeating Sean Brady via second round technical knockout at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (watch highlights). For Muhammad, it’s easy to give credit where it’s due after working alongside “The Eagle” for that fight camp.
“To me, he’s the Michael Jordan of MMA, he’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) to me and I’m like, ‘I get to work with Michael Jordan in his prime,’” Muhammad said when speaking with Bryan Callen. “It’s not like he retired because he was getting beat up or he was injured, he retired for a reason. He’s still the best to do it right now. He’s still the best in the practice room. Still an amazing athlete, he’s just bigger now. He doesn’t have to cut weight, he doesn’t have to diet, but he’s still got all that greatness inside of him. So, I’m working with the Michael Jordan of MMA in his prime.
“If LeBron James could do that with Michael Jordan in his prime, he would probably want to go back in time to do that,” he concluded.
Already a great wrestler in his own right, Muhammad utilized the aid of Nurmagomedov more for his anti-wrestling than trying to offensively brutalize opponents in the same fashion fans became accustomed to during the aforementioned 29-fight stretch. With zero takedown attempts against Brady, Muhammad’s gameplan and preparation worked beautifully as he handed the Philadelphian his first career loss.
“I wish [Nurmagomedov] would just strike me [in sparring] because his grappling — at least I can do something in striking,” Muhammad laughed. “In the grappling, I cannot do anything. He’s sitting there having a conversation, ‘Brother, get me a Starbucks,’ as he’s like getting me in a kimura and I’m like, bro. I don’t know whether to be mad or embarrassed.”