It has been nearly two years since Khabib Nurmagomedov competed in the cage but the retired Russian UFC star’s skills remain sufficient to claim gold all the way up in the middleweight division, according to his manager.
Nurmagomedov competed at 155lbs for the majority of his unbeaten fight career, claiming UFC gold and pound-for-pound number one status along the way, but if he ever opted to come back to the cage for one last hurrah, Ali Abdelaziz says that not even middleweight phenom Israel Adesanya would have a change against him.
The Russian great has certainly kept himself busy since calling time on his own combat career following a decisive submission win against Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi in September 2020.
He has moved into coaching several Russian fighters, most notably guiding the fighter many see as his successor in the UFC, Islam Makhahev, towards a world title.
Khabib has also spent some painstaking hours running his own fight promotion, Eagle FC.
And speaking to MMA website Sherdog, Abdelaziz said that if his fighter felt the urge to strap on the 4oz gloves on more time a return to the division he ruled in the latter part of his career is unlikely.
“Khabib now weighs 200 pounds,” Abdelaziz, who fronts the management group Dominance MMA, said.
“If Khabib comes tomorrow and cuts to 185, he would stop Israel Adesanya in three rounds. I see it. He beats heavyweights, light heavyweights, welterweights, lightweights – he’s unstoppable now. He’s like a tractor trailer.”
Israel Adesanya, though, would be seen by many as a (quite literally) tall order. The Nigerian-born New Zealander has been unstoppable at middleweight throughout his career, with the sole defeat on his ledger coming in the light heavyweight division.
Other than that, Adesanya is a perfect 22-0 at 185lbs.
No matter, though, claims Abdelaziz.
“But styles – if Khabib wants to come back and talks with Dana White and says, ‘Let me fight at middleweight,’ he will finish Israel in three rounds because the style of fights,” he pledged
“Israel can’t stop his wrestling. He can’t stop his grappling. But striking, of course, Israel is the best striker on this planet.”
Abdelaziz, who has served as a very efficient cheerleader for much of Khabib’s storied career, added that Nurmagomedov could come back ‘today’ and win the world title if he so desired.
“He can come back and fight middleweight and become a champion today,” Abdelaziz said. “He’s always in good shape, he’s always in good spirits and you never know. Honestly, he said, ‘I’m never going to fight again.’ But sometimes I feel like he wants (to).
“Because I said, ‘Hey, why do you go so hard with the guys?’ He said, ‘Oh, I have to show them who’s the boss.’ But in reality, you never know what happens.
“Maybe we do ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ with Tony Ferguson and they go crazy with each other and they end up fighting at the end of the season. You never know.”