Former UFC lightweight champion, Eagle FC promoter, and highly-regarded MMA coach Khabib Nurmagomedov made a quick and hasty exit from combat sports earlier this month, opting to spend more time with his family after nearly a decade of Octagon excellence.
The decision came as a surprise to most UFC fans considering the timing of his departure. Nurmagomedov’s closest friend and top student, Islam Makhachev, is just a few weeks in front of his lightweight title defense opposite featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski.
“He informed me about three weeks out that this is what he wants to do,” American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) head coach Javier Mendez told Submission Radio. “He wants to spend time with family, and I am 100 percent with him on what he wants to do and the reasons he wants to do it. He never said ‘forever’ but it’s gonna be awhile, I would imagine. Unless something happens where he really misses it or really feels he’s needed, but right now I think everybody is good with his decision and very happy for him.”
UFC 284 takes place on Feb. 12 in Perth, Western Australia, but airs on Feb. 11 in the United States due to the discrepancy in time zones. The optimistic Mendez does not expect Nurmagomedov’s absence to have any impact on the performance of Makhachev.
“I miss him, I’m always wanting him to be around,” Mendez continued. “It was great for me to have someone that great [in our corner]. I’ve been in Islam’s corner since 2015. Not having Khabib there, it’s great having him there and I want him there, but I’m okay with him not being there either, because Islam Makhachev is such a great student of the game and he knows what to do. Formulate the gameplan, give him the gameplan, and he goes out and executes.”
Makhachev is currently the -315 betting favorite.