Khabib Nurmagomedov made himself stand out in the cage during a dominant career that saw him go undefeated and claim the UFC lightweight title. Now he’s trying to do unprecedented things as a coach.
So far, so good for Nurmagomedov. The UFC Hall of Famer, who retired in October 2020 after his father, Abdulmanap, passed away, has been nothing short of spectacular as a coach. His team currently houses reigning UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, reigning Bellator lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov, and plenty of other successful names.
When Abdulmanap passed, Nurmagomedov made a promise to his mother that he would retire from competition for good and take over the role of coach. He’s stuck true to his word, and the transition has been nothing short of seamless. According to ESPN MMA, seven of the most notable fighters from Nurmagomedov’s team hold a combined record of 142-11-3. That doesn’t include some of the lesser-known names, either.
Nurmagomedov said he’s proud to carry the torch from his father, and he’s not oblivious to the success of his athletes.
“Right now we have current UFC and Bellator lightweight champions,” Nurmagomedov said at a recent public appearance for Class A Events/Penny Appeal Canada. This is amazing. I heard a long time ago when one guy was talking about, ‘We here to take over.’ But we here to take over. And you what’s interesting is I coach not a lot of people. I coach people that were around me when I was an active fighter, this is maybe like 12-15 guys. Like 13 people we have combined win in MMA almost 300 fights. This is crazy. Nobody ever did this in MMA before. It never happened.
“I’m very happy because of this because it was my father’s hard work. The way he invests in us, the way he teaches us. The way he pushes us. It’s everything. Right now, his legacy keeps going.”
If there’s one thing Nurmagomedov is bred not to do, it’s rest on his laurels. The short-term success since Nurmagomedov’s take over speaks for itself, but the truly elite teams in MMA have a track record that last years, such as the experience of his corner partner and American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez.
Nurmagomedov’s team is poised to get there, though. But it’s only going to happen if the hard work continues to happen. There will be no taking the foot of the gas pedal, and Nurmagomedov said he’ll be at the helm to make sure nothing starts to slip.
“First of all you have to follow my rules,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t think I’m a nice coach. I’m nice person. I’m not a bad person, but as a coach, I’m not a nice person. I’m not joking. … People when they join my training camp, they don’t understand a lot of things. The way I watch how guys train in MMA, they do a lot of stuff they’re not supposed to do.
“They do one hour mitts work of CrossFit. I tell my guys always, ‘If you want to become successful MMA fighter and you’re from Dagestan and you know how to wrestle, every day you need to learn how to grapple and wrestle one hour. If you don’t wrestle and grapple one hour every day, this is not MMA training.’”