Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has some high praise for UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov—even conceding he wouldn’t want to fight him.
Whittaker and Nurmagomedov both returned to the cage at UFC 254 last Saturday. Whittaker defeated Jared Cannonier in a perceived middleweight No. 1 contender fight in the co-main event, while Nurmagomedov defended the lightweight belt with a submission win over Justin Gaethje in the main event, and announced his retirement immediately thereafter.
Speaking to ESPN this week, Whittaker heaped praise on the retiring Nurmagomedov.
“He’s just a freak, isn’t he? Good gosh, he is so good,” Whittaker said (via The Body Lock). “He made one of the best dudes in the world look not like one of the best dudes in the world.
“It’s phenomenal. I’ll tell you right now — I wouldn’t want to take a fight with him [laughs]. I’m much bigger than he is…he’s a scary dude.”
In the wake of UFC 254, Nurmagomedov surpassed Jon Jones in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, swiping the No. 1 spot for himself. Jones has been furious about this development, but Whittaker believes the change is fair.
“I like Jon, I do,” he said. “I think even Jon would say—maybe not [laughs]. I don’t know, Khabib’s been flawless. He’s had a flawless run and he’s had no hiccups. He’s had no obstacles. He’s made every fight look easy.
“I think Khabib has done something special, like there wasn’t a single person that Khabib went up against that people were like, ‘aw, he might get him.’ Everyone has always been like he’s going to maul this dude.”
This is not the first time Robert Whittaker has applauded Khabib Nurmagomedov. Back in August, he showered the lightweight champ with similar praise.
“I think Khabib is phenomenal,” Whittaker said on Submission Radio. “One, he’s very respectful and honourable. I think he’s a stand-up role model for the sport and for people alike. I think that’s how you should act, especially us as warriors going into battle. I think that’s the respect and the honour you have to give your opponent. That’s the first one, that’s my thing. I think GSP did a good job of that as well. And there are a lot of other fighters, but that’s the train I’m thinking of.
“Two, it’s just Khabib’s fighting prowess and style, man,” Whittaker added. “Like, everyone knows what he’s gonna do. Everyone knows what he’s gonna do, and no one can stop him. No one can stop him. And it’s no secret. He doesn’t’ come into fights with new game plans, he doesn’t come into fights, it just doesn’t matter because he just knows that he’s gonna take you down and bash the shit out of you. That’s it every fight. Same game plan, same layout. He knows.
“It’s amazing,” Whittaker continued. “It is amazing to have that sort of level of anything in the game. Because there has been good and very high-level guys in the game across the history. There’s been a lot of high-level guys with those sort of skillsets, where people know what to do, and then they start to work them out and they start to counter them, and then you see everyone switch onto it and the guy can’t quite get to his game plan anymore. Not with Khabib. Khabib does it. He makes it work no matter what. And that is amazing. Amazing. Especially at the level that he’s at. I think that’s amazing.
“I don’t see him losing. I don’t see him losing ever.”
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