Khabib Nurmagomedov has an unbeaten streak of 29 wins in Mixed Martial Arts, and it is an achievement that has earned him, in the opinion of many, the status of the GOAT in the sport.
But has the UFC Lightweight Champion never lost in any form of fight in his life? The answer - he has. Even though the contest is not well known, Khabib Nurmagomedov suffered a defeat - possibly the only one of his life - at Russian Sambo Championship in the year 2005
Khabib Nurmagomedov's only loss
Khabib Nurmagomedov was 17 years old when he fought 20-year-old future Olympian Magomed Ibragimov at the Russian Sambo Championship Final (-68 kg).
Khabib Nurmagomedov represented the team of the Republic of Dagestan, while Magomed Ibragimov fought for the Republic of Chechnya.
Even at that young age, Khabib Nurmagomedov displayed phenomenal grappling and wrestling skills. However, his opponent prevailed in the end, as the judges of the competition scored in Ibragimov's favor.
17-year-old Khabib put his hands to his face and slumped down on the mat, possibly breaking down in tears. With his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov as the coach of the Dagestani team, he was possibly bearing the burden of expectations.
In a show of good sportsmanship, Ibragimov went ahead even before the referee could raise his hand to console Nurmagomedov and pull him up to his feet. The two fighters left the mat together as the audience clapped on.
Watch the video of this little-known contest below.
Despite the loss, we can see sparks of the Khabib Nurmagomedov we know today in the 17-year-old here.
Now known worldwide for his dangerous style of grappling inside the Octagon with which he has submitted 11 of the 29 opponents he has faced, Khabib Nurmagomedov put on some serious display of takedown skills.
At the 8:11 mark, Khabib aims at his opponent's legs and nearly brings him down to the mat - a tactic we saw him do numerous times in his UFC career.
Speaking of his opponent, Magomed Ibragimov made a name for himself as well. Representing Uzbekistan in later years, Ibragimov participated in freestyle wrestling in the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. In both events, he secured bronze medal for his country. He also has two gold medals in two consecutive years at Asian Championships.
Khabib Nurmagomedov - The making of the Dagestani maestro
Now the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in UFC rankings, Khabib Nurmagomedov almost did not become a fighter. His father wanted him to study and it was not till much later that Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov recognized where his son's talent lay.
Khabib shared in a 2013 interview:
"My childhood was pretty normal. My father wanted me to study and I wanted to become a professional athlete. He and I always had a misunderstanding over this issue, but my father eventually realized that I had a gift for fighting and he started training me to become the world's best in 2005," said Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Despite his initial disagreement, it is only because of of his father that 'The Eagle' got to where he is now. Growing up, his father had converted the ground floor of their two-storey house into a gym, where Khabib and his cousins underwent training for fighting.
From weight training at the gym to fighting other kids in the street to wrestling a bear at 9 years of age, Khabib Nurmagomedov has done everything one can imagine.
"I have been fighting in the street and various tournaments since childhood and this experience and confidence helps me quite a bit. Perhaps it is in my genes because my father is an accomplished athlete as well," Khabib commented.
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who passed away in July, 2020, was a judo black belt and a National master of sports. In September, 2019, Abdulmanap was included in the Russian Book of Records as the coach who has trained the most number of sambo champions.
The bond that Khabib Nurmagomedov and his father shared can be understood from the way he spoke of him in the post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 254, where he also announced his retirement from MMA.
Among the 18 champions Abdulmanap trained in his lifetime, one was his son, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In the same tournament where he lost, the 2009 Russian Combat Sambo Championships, the Dagestani fighter picked up a gold medal four years later. In the same year, he became the World Combat Sambo Champion. He achieved the same feat the next year as well.
Here is a compilation of Khabib Nurmagomedov's combat sambo fights over the years. He secured a win in all of them after the loss to Ibragimov.
It was after winning the World Combat Sambo Championship in 2010 that Khabib Nurmagomedov realized he wanted more out of his fighting career.
That is when he started to work towards becoming a UFC fighter. It did not take him long to achieve the dream, as he debuted in UFC in October 2012, against Kamal Shalorus.
'The Eagle' announced his arrival at UFC with an excellent display of grappling and a rear-naked choke submission of Shalorus in the third round. The rest, as they say, is history.
The loss to Ibragimov is Khabib's only known loss in a legitimate contest. According to a fan video, there are two other instances where Khabib Nurmagomedov has suffered a defeat.
One of them was a grappling match, but it seemed to take place in a training facility. The second one is part of a fight he had with a young kid, in which he obviously play-acted being taken down by the little boy.
Watch the video below: