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Khabib Nurmagomedov and who else? The other fighters that won the BBC Sports Personality's World Sport Star of the Year award

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the BBC Sports Personality
Khabib Nurmagomedov is the BBC Sports Personality's World Sport Star of the Year
Modified 18 Dec 2020, 15:54 IST

MMA fighter and UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has been awarded the BBC Sports Personality's World Sport Star of the Year.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the first in his category to win the prize and joins three other boxing legends as the only combat athletes to be honored with the award.

Khabib Nurmagomedov was the most voted candidate among the last six award contenders. Irish boxer Katie Taylor was another name from the fighting world to be indicated for the BBC prize.

Besides Khabib Nurmagomedov and Taylor, the other nominees were Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, American basketball legend LeBron James, American golfer Dustin Johnson, French footballer Wendie Renard.

Khabib Nurmagomedov only competed in one fight during 2020, when he defeated UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje to defend the UFC lightweight championship at UFC 254. Nevertheless, Khabib Nurmagomedov had a truly inspiring year. The Russian grappler shocked MMA fans worldwide when he announced his retirement following his 29th consecutive win.

Khabib Nurmagomedov's announcement came months after his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died in July due to COVID-19 complications.

The unbeaten UFC champion promised his mother that he would not enter the Octagon again without his father beside him.


The Award

Formerly known as the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, the award was renamed as the World Sport Star of the Year in 2018. The rebrand also allowed people overseas to cast their votes for the first time.

The award is presented to a non-British sportsperson who has made the most significant contribution to a sport in that year. Since 2015, it has been the public who votes for this award.

The BBC World Sport Star award was presented for the first time in 1960, and has had 56 different winners since then. Four people have been awarded more than once, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Here is a breakdown of all combat sports athletes to win and what they did to deserve the glorious award:

Khabib Nurmagomedov

As it is the standard for the award, Khabib Nurmagomedov was honored in a year of personal loss and triumph, even under challenging circumstances.

Khabib Nurmagomedov successfully defended his UFC lightweight title for the third time against Justin Gaethje, and was the first time that he would fight without having the words of advice from his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov during the bout. Abdulmanap died in July after contracting COVID-19 following a heart surgery.


The Russian MMA fighter also faced criticism this year. Since his win against Conor McGregor in 2018, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is Muslim, has been accused of enjoying his high-profile to influence and further his 'ultra-conservative worldview.' Among other incidents, the most significant happened in October. Following the brutal murder of a French teacher by Islamist terrorists, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, started campaigning in defense of freedom of speech and liberties deemed as essential in France.

Khabib Nurmagomedov criticized Macron with this statement:

"May the Almighty disfigure the face of this creature and all its followers, who, under the slogan of freedom of speech, offend the feelings of more than one and a half billion Muslim believers. May the Almighty humiliate them in this life and in the next."

It is uncertain if Khabib Nurmagomedov will return to compete in MMA professionally. Khabib Nurmagomedov himself has maintained that he is already retired for good. Others, including UFC president Dana White, believe that Khabib Nurmagomedov will eventually come back to the UFC.

Dana White said in a press conference that he will be meeting with Khabib Nurmagomedov in January.


Khabib Nurmagomedov is widely considered as one of the best lightweights in UFC history, and is even considered as one of the best to ever compete inside the Octagon.

Currently, Khabib Nurmagomedov is ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is one in the select group of only four people that have won the award more than once. The boxing legend won the BBC World Sport Star of the Year honor three different times in 1973, 1974, and 1978. Only Roger Federer (4) has more awards than him. Usain Bolt (3) and Greg Norman (2) are the other names to appear on the list at least twice.

1973 was an unusual year for Ali. He lost for the second time in his career when Ken Norton broke his jaw to win the NABF heavyweight title. Ali said following his defeat:

"I never thought of losing, but now that it's happened, the only thing is to do it right. That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life."

Ali would make an impressive comeback that many thought would be impossible. In less than five months after having his jaw broken, he returned for a rematch with Norton and recaptured his belt. Ali also defeated Joe Bugner and Rudie Lubbers in that year.

1974 might be Muhammad Ali's most famous year as a professional pugilist. Besides starting the year defending his NABF heavyweight title against Joe Frazier, Ali would take part in what is perhaps the most famous boxing fight in history, when he traveled to Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to defeat George Foreman.


'The Rumble in the Jungle,' as it would be forever known, was one of the most eccentric and promoted sports event ever to happen. Ali won with a knockout in the eighth round to obtain the WBA, WBC, and The Ring heavyweight titles.

In 1978, another comeback story - this time against Leon Spinks, and an increasing humanitarian and political awareness made Ali bag the esteemed award for the third time.

Besides the annual accolade, Ali was also awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Century Award in 1999.

Mike Tyson

1989 was marked as the year that Mike Tyson got divorced for the first time. His marriage with model and actress Robin Givens only lasted one year. Even among all the personal turmoil, Tyson went on to display two of his most notable performances.

In his bout with Frank Bruno, Tyson had one of his most difficult fights. With a powerful punch to the head, Bruno was able to stun the heavyweight champion, who got visibly disoriented. During the next four rounds, Tyson would recover to knockout Bruno before the bell rang for the sixth time. 

Tyson won the BBC award just before losing his first professional fight in 1990. But one year earlier, Tyson's performances were enough to convince the British panel to award him as the most prominent overseas sports personality of 1989.

Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield shared the award with American sprinter Michael Johnson in 1996, the first time the BBC prize was awarded to two different athletes in the same year.


That year, Holyfield would become WBA heavyweight champion for the third time in his career after defeating Mike Tyson in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

The fight was a long-awaited duel between the two best heavyweight boxers of that generation. Holyfield's victory became even more remarkable considering that he came back from retirement that year, after having health problems in 1994.

British and Irish combat sport athletes to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year

The main version of the BBC award is only given to British athletes or those who reside and play a significant amount of their sport in the United Kingdom.

Inside the combat sports world, only boxers were awarded the honor until now. Henry Cooper, English, won in 1967 and 1970; Barry McGuigan, Irish, won in 1985; Lennox Lewis, English, won in 1999; and Joe Calzaghe, Welsh, won in 2007.

Published 18 Dec 2020, 15:54 IST
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