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5 most iconic Khabib Nurmagomedov moments in the UFC

C. Naik
The incredible career of Khabib Nurmagomedov [Image courtesy of @btsportufc on Twitter]
The incredible career of Khabib Nurmagomedov [Image courtesy of @btsportufc on Twitter]

Khabib Nurmagomedov is undoubtedly one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the famed UFC octagon. 'The Eagle' enjoyed a turbulent yet stellar run in the promotion's lightweight division before finally hanging up his gloves two years ago.

He joined the UFC with a perfect professional record of 16-0 and went on to dominate every opponent he faced en route to the championship. His relentless pressure, suffocating wrestling and merciless ground-and-pound proved to be too much for his peers at 155 lbs. He became the undisputed champion in 2018 and defended his belt three times before shockingly retiring in 2020.

With his tumultuous journey to UFC gold, historic rivalry with Conor McGregor and emergence as one of the most influential Muslim athletes of all time, the career of Khabib Nurmagomedov has been incredible to watch. That said, here are his five most iconic moments in the UFC.


#5. "I have to fight for the title, you know this!" - Khabib Nurmagomedov tells Michael Johnson to give up mid-fight

Khabib Nurmagomedov was the consensus No.1 contender in the lightweight division in 2016. Ranked No.2 at the time, the Russian was more than deserving of a shot at Eddie Alvarez's title and, on merit, should have been fighting the champion next.

However, this was at the height of Conor McGregor's rise in the UFC. McGregor's scintillating run in the featherweight division saw the Irishman run through the competition at 145 lbs, culminating in a stunning 13-second KO of the long-reigning champion, Jose Aldo.

McGregor had the world eating out of the palm of his hand at the time and called for a shot at the lightweight belt in pursuit of champ-champ status. He took on Alvarez in the main event of UFC 205, while Nurmagomedov was relegated to the prelims where he took on No.6-ranked Michael Johnson.

'The Eagle' dominated the first two rounds, repeatedly taking his opponent down and raining down vicious strikes. His frustration at the fact that McGregor was fighting for the title instead of him was as clear as day. As the Russian pounded out Johnson against the cage, he could be heard saying:

"You have to give up! I have to fight for the title, you know this, I deserve it!"
A throwback to when @TeamKhabib was talking to Michael Johnson during their fight and literally telling him to give up😲#UFC219 https://t.co/fROPYMmKxK

Moreover, in-between rounds, the undefeated Russian was shouting at UFC president Dana White. The savagery of his actions sticks out as one of the most memorable moments in Nurmagomedov's career.

After pounding on and talking to Johnson for two and a half rounds, 'The Eagle' secured a technical submission finish to stake his claim for the 155 lbs title.

Can anyone stop Khabib? This is how he took out Michael Johnson on his way to the title... 🏆📺 youtu.be/FWdFnyAbk1M https://t.co/zY2OA1HTpr

#4. "I want to fight with your chicken!" - Khabib Nurmagomedov calls out Conor McGregor at UFC 205

As discussed in the previous entry, Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Michael Johnson at UFC 205 to further solidify his status as the No.1 contender at 155 lbs. Nurmagomedov, who is always respectful and doesn't engage in trash-talking, felt the need to make a statement following his victory.

With Conor McGregor set to fight for the title later that night, 'The Eagle' slammed the state of the lightweight title picture. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the formidable Russian highlighted the hypocrisy surrounding McGregor jumping the line and getting an immediate title shot, saying:

"I want to stay humble, but I have to talk because your guys talk too much. And you know what's interesting? I understand how [much] crazy power [the] UFC PR [public relations] machine [has]. Your guy, beginning of the year, he tap like chicken, end of the year he fight for the title! Crazy! Hey, you know guys! This is true. This is not trash talking. Hey guys, Irish only six million, Russia 150 million. I want to fight with your chicken! Because this is No.1 easy fight in lightweight division."

Watch Khabib Nurmagomedov's full post-fight interview below:

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Nurmagomedov's epic and passionate post-fight interview sparked the beginning of the most heated rivalry in UFC history. McGregor went on to beat Alvarez conclusively on the night to become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold belts in two divisions.

The Irishman went on to box Floyd Mayweather after becoming the UFC lightweight champion. His absence from the octagon, coupled with his subsequent run-ins with the law, prompted the UFC to strip him of the belt. Nurmagomedov fought for the vacant title at UFC 223 in 2018, beating Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision to become the undisputed champion.

A moment 10 years in the making. Undisputed. Undefeated. #UFCReebokMoment #UFC223 https://t.co/AzeiGf6gRm

#3. Khabib Nurmagomedov chokes out Dustin Poirier with his late father in his corner

In his second title defense, Khabib Nurmagomedov took on Dustin Poirier. Poirier earned the UFC interim lightweight title after a five-round war with Max Holloway. He looked to unify the belts when he squared off against Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

Up until this point in his UFC career, Nurmagomedov primarily fought in the United States. His father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who trained 'The Eagle' and most of his Dagestani brethren from a young age, never had the opportunity to watch his son compete in the octagon previously. With the fight against Poirier going down in the Middle-East, he finally got the chance to watch his son live.

Nurmagomedov dominated Poirier on the night. He submitted 'The Diamond' in the third round to successfully defend his title.

Nurmagomedov's father was a combat sambo practitioner himself and played a major role in the growth of combat sports in the Caucasus region of Russia. In his post-fight interview, the lightweight champ called upon his father to stand alongside him, much to the joy of the crowd in attendance.

Nurmagomedov's father passed away due to complications stemming from COVID-19 a year later.

Listen to the crowd roar at UFC 242 when @TeamKhabib brought Abdulmanap into the spotlight during his post-fight interview. https://t.co/DWNRsmRLMw

#2. Khabib Nurmagomedov retires as the undefeated undisputed UFC lightweight champion

At UFC 254 in 2020, just three months after the tragic passing of his father, Khabib Nurmagomedov fought Justin Gaethje in a title unification bout. Gaethje won the interim title following his dominant performance against Tony Ferguson earlier that year and many believed he would be a nightmare stylistic matchup for 'The Eagle'.

Nurmagomedov put Gaethje to sleep in the second round with an exquisite mounted triangle. Moments after the finish, he broke down and fell to the canvas as he remembered his late father.

Victory for Khabib and the Champion is overcome with emotion.A beautiful moment of respect as Justin Gaethje joins him in the centre of the mat.One step closer to Father's Plan 🙏#UFC254 https://t.co/1Gd6xRNAaA

In his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, he shockingly announced his retirement. Explaining that there was no way he was going to fight without his father, Nurmagomedov revealed his desire to walk away from the sport as the undefeated, undisputed lightweight champion.

He told Jon Anik:

"Thank you for these guys, these guys with me. And with my father, more than 20 years, all my team, AKA with coach Jav [Javier Mendez], I love him so much. All my team, thank you. Today, I want to say, it was my last fight. No way I'm going to come here without my father."
Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after #UFC254, walking away with an undefeated record of 29-0. https://t.co/8zeppj5rZc

Khabib Nurmagomedov retired with a perfect professional record of 29-0. Following his win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, he became the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world before ultimately vacating the title.

This marked the end of one of the most legendary careers in the history of mixed martial arts.

29-0.A legacy that will never be equaled... #UFC254 https://t.co/yck8dXSBQK

Watch a touching tribute from BT Sport depicting Khabib Nurmagomedov's relationship with his father below:

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#1. "Let's talk now!" - Khabib Nurmagomedov lashes out at Conor McGregor mid-fight before choking him out

Khabib Nurmagomedov's rivalry with Conor McGregor remains one of the most monumental milestones in the history of the UFC. The bad blood between the two fighters was rife at the time. Before Nurmagomedov fought Al Iaquinta for the vacant title in 2018, McGregor famously attacked 'The Eagle' and several other fighters while they were on a bus.

In the lead-up to their highly-anticipated grudge match, McGregor relentlessly mocked, ridiculed and belittled Nurmagomedov's family, religion and country. 'The Notorious' notably insulted the Russian champion's father, which undoubtedly added to the animosity between them.

Watch a compilation of all the trash-talk from Conor McGregor below:

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As their bout edged closer, it became evident that this was going to be the biggest fight in UFC history. There were numerous elements surrounding the matchup that led to the magnitude of attention it received.

Following a bitter, contentious and somewhat dark fight week, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor finally locked horns in the main event of UFC 229 in Las Vegas.

Khabib Nurmagomedov. Conor McGregor. One last Face Off tonight 'til they meet in the octagon for #UFC229. https://t.co/O0Jzx2y5lC

Nurmagomedov remained largely stoic throughout fight week and seemingly brushed off most of McGregor's trash-talk. He didn't engage with the mind games, but there was an underlying feeling that he was seething throughout.

During the fight, 'The Eagle' provided a dose of his own signature style of trash talk. He could be heard repeatedly telling his Irish counterpart, "Let's talk now!" as he rained down with vicious ground-and-pound.

"Let's talk now!" You know you're in trouble when @TeamKhabib starts talking 🦅 [ #UFC254 | #InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi ] https://t.co/y7i4fHwMyi

Nurmagomedov dominated McGregor in the first two rounds, using his trademark pressure from the top position to tire out 'The Notorious'. The former two-division champ bounced back in the third, stuffing all of the reigning Russian champ's takedown attempts.

In the fourth round, Nurmagomedov took McGregor down one final time and choked him out with a brutal neck-crank to defend his title.

Undefeated. Undisputed. 🏆 2️⃣7️⃣-0️⃣ #UFC229 https://t.co/apjn2PJLpS

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Edited by John Cunningham
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