Legendary grappler Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida knows that Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t just a great fighter, but also a cunning instigator. Nurmagomedov once stirred controversy when he wore a t-shirt with the words “if sambo was easy, it would be called jiu-jitsu” back in 2013.
Nearly a decade later, that quote remained a point of discussion. Especially when ONE flyweight submission grappling world champion Mikey Musumeci challenged the top sambo fighter in his division to a match.
Almeida, though, feels that what Nurmagomedov did back then was just his way of promoting his match against Thiago Tavares in Brazil. It may have been controversial, but what the former UFC lightweight world champion did was certainly effective.
‘Buchecha’ said in an interview with ONE Championship:
“I think Khabib said that as a form of promotion. At the time he wore this shirt, he was going to face a jiu-jitsu black belt, Thiago Tavares. It's been a long time, and he wore the shirt just to get attention. And it worked. A lot of people talked about it. It was a marketing ploy because Khabib trains that half-guard control a lot by playing on top, crushing the opponent's legs. And that was the result of a lot of jiu-jitsu training.”
Nurmagomedov is one of the finest grapplers of his generation, with 11 of his 29 total wins coming by way of submission. 'The Eagle's sambo background was certainly the foundation of Nurmagomedov’s arsenal, but Almeida believes that his Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) training has played a major role too.
‘Buchecha’ added that he saw Nurmagomedov train extensively in BJJ under Leandro Vieira at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Coincidentally, Vieira is the brother of Almeida’s mentor Leonardo:
“I followed him training with Leandro Vieira, who was the AKA jiu-jitsu coach at the time. I saw him teaching Khabib a lot of jiu-jitsu... So I followed Khabib's jiu-jitsu training very closely. Like I said, it was just a marketing ploy and it worked at the time. But the truth is that Khabib trains a lot of jiu-jitsu and used jiu-jitsu a lot in his fights."
‘Buchecha’ gives props to Ruotolo twins’ development
While Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida observed how Nurmagomedov developed his grappling, he also bore witness to the rise of submission phenoms Kade and Tye Ruotolo.
The Ruotolos are considered the brightest stars of their generation, with the 19-year-old twins capturing unprecedented success in the 2022 ADCC World Championship.
Tye won the bronze medal in the men’s absolute division while Kade captured gold in the -77 kilogram weight class.
‘Buchecha’ said in the same ONE Championship interview that he’s known the twins since they were little and that he would usually talk to them just to exchange ideas.
The 17-time BJJ world champion said:
“I've known the Ruotolo brothers since they were very young, still a green belt, yellow belt… I even attended their first seminar when they were still children. So, I've known them both for a long time. I followed their evolution closely.”
“I always exchanged a lot of ideas with them. But the first opportunity we had to train was now. There was a press conference in Los Angeles and everyone met at RVCA. I've always had a friendship with them, but I only had the opportunity to train with them once.”