Khabib Nurmagomedov opens up on father’s passing: “It does affect me”

Islam Makhachev, Khabib Nurmagomedov
Image via @Khabib_nurmagomedov on Instagram

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has opened up on the death of father Abdulmanap, who passed away earlier this summer due to complications related to COVID-19.

Nurmagomedov opened up on this heart-wrenching topic during a recent press conference in Russia. He acknowledged that loss is something many people experience, particularly in the midst in the current pandemic, but added that the loss of his father has been very painful given how close they were.

“I’m sure everyone in this room lost someone,” Nurmagomedov said (via RT Sport). “A friend, a neighbor, a cousin, a mother, a father, girlfriend. Everyone goes through loss, I understand that. But on the other hand it’s very difficult. Some people have strictly a father-son relationship, but my father was very close to me. We were like friends. He was my father and coach, we were always together. We were very close. Of course I’m sad.”

Nurmagomedov is currently gearing up for a title defense opposite UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. The fight is viewed by many fans and pundits as the toughest challenge of his career.

As this massive challenge bears down, Nurmagomedov admitted that his father’s death has affected his training, but speculated that this turmoil could propel him to another level.

“If I tell you with a straight face that it doesn’t affect my training, that’d be a lie,” he said. “It does affect me, I think about him all the time. Maybe this pain will put me on another level and make me stronger. Any challenge either breaks you or makes you stronger. We’ll see what it does to me in time.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov is currently 28-0 as a professional mixed martial artist. He captured the UFC lightweight title in early 2018, when he defeated last-minute replacement opponent Al Iaquinta in a fight for the vacant throne. Since then, he’s defended the title twice: first with a submission of Conor McGregor in late 2018, then with a submission of Dustin Poirier in September, 2019. Other highlights of his record include wins over top-flight foes like Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson and Edson Barboza.

Nurmagomedov was expected to defend his title against Tony Ferguson in April, but ended up getting stranded in his native Russia due to travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic. When Nurmagomedov was unable to fight Ferguson, Justin Gaethje got the call to fight Ferguson in an interim lightweight title fight.

That Gaethje vs. Ferguson fight ended up happening in May. In a noteworthy upset, Gaethje won by fifth-round TKO to capture, claiming the interim title and setting himself up for a blockbuster title unification fight with Nurmagomedov.

How do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov will perform in his fight with Justin Gaethje?