No. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Khamzat Chimaev are not friends. Ever since Khamzat Chimaev's emergence on the UFC horizon, the MMA community has compared the Chechen-Swedish fighter with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov due to uncanny similarities in fighting style, accent and looks between the two. But despite being from the same geographic region, Khabib and Chimaev's paths have never crossed in the competitive sphere or otherwise.
Born and raised in Chechnya, a state neighboring Khabib's homeland of Dagestan, Khamzat Chimaev (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) migrated to Sweden in 2013 at 19 years of age and has called it home to this date. He trains at the Allstar training center in Stockholm, the gym that has produced UFC fighters like Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi.
Khamzat Chimaev made his UFC debut in July 2020 and broke the record for quickest turnaround between wins in UFC history by finishing John Phillips and Rhys McKee in the space of ten days. He defeated Gerald Meerschaert in his third UFC fight to secure the fastest three-fight winning streak in modern UFC history.
Chimaev displayed vicious ground and pound in the first two UFC fights and employed ground control techniques like the infamous Dagestani handcuff and leg control that were brought into the UFC by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Fighting techniques combined with the looks, accent and the famous catchphrase 'I want to smash these guys' that both fighters like to use, earned Khamzat Chimaev the nickname Khabib 2.0. Chimaev has expressed his disapproval of the comparison with Khabib mainly due to his striking ability and knockout power.
Khabib Nurmagomedov thought Khamzat Chimaev should fight ranked fighters, even before the UFC announced it
Although Khabib Nurmagomedov and Khamzat Chimaev are not friends, the fighters have been complimentary of each other's achievements during various media appearances.
During an interview with RT Sport MMA in the lead-up to UFC 254, Khabib Numagomedov expressed his thoughts on Chimaev as a fighter and shared his opinion on who he thinks Khamzat Chimaev should fight, considering the outcome of his fights against mid-tier, unranked fighters.
"I don't know what UFC (is) gonna do with him... about his next opponent but (in) my opinion I think he deserve(s) top 10, top 15 opponent. (It's) My opinion. He deserve(s) to fight someone very tough opponent like five rounds. Then after this one, he deserve(s) contender fight," Khabib Nurmagomedov told RT Sport MMA.
Following his win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October 2020, Khabib Nurmagomedov announced retirement from professional MMA, while Khamzat Chimaev has not been able to return to the UFC octagon due to lingering effects of a Covid-19 infection after the initial three-fight run.
Part of the reason behind Khabib Nurmagomedov and Khamzat Chimaev's UFC success is the difference in wrestling technique. While the greco-roman and freestyle wrestling practiced in western countries relies on explosive movements, the Dagestani/Russian style wrestling is a form of chain wrestling that requires less energy expenditure. With more and more fighters from Russia and Caucasian states now making their way into the UFC, these techniques are slowly being adapted by fighters from other parts of the world.