The undefeated, undisputed former lightweight champion was honored by the UFC
Khabib Nurmagomedov paid a touching tribute to his late father Abdulmanap while revealing the best moment of his stellar fighting career as the Russian former lightweight champion was formally inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Khabib, who retired with an unblemished 29-0 record as one of the most dominant forces MMA has ever seen, took to the stage at the T-Mobile Arena to receive his UFC honor on Thursday night, at a ceremony where close friend and former training partner Daniel Cormier also officially became a Hall of Famer.
Khabib, 33, talked of the relentless hard work and dedication which paved the way for his remarkable career inside the cage, which ended with a typically comprehensive victory when he choked out Justin Gaethje in October of 2020, for what his 13th win inside the UFC Octagon and third title defense.
But speaking on sidelines of the event, Khabib said it was his first title defense against notorious Irish nemesis Conor McGregor which had been the highlight of his 12-year professional career.
"It was here, this arena, October 6, 2018," Khabib told the media, referencing his fourth-round submission victory over McGregor in a vicious grudge match which was followed by a mass crowd brawl.
"Biggest fight in MMA history. I'm very happy I win this fight. I can lose any of my fights. But no way this fight," added Khabib.
The rise of 'The Eagle' from the mountains of Dagestan to the pinnacle of his sport would not have been possible without his father and trainer Abdulmanap, who passed away two years ago at the age of 57 after complications stemming from a Covid-19 infection.
Khabib said he would not be the man he is today without the guidance from his father, citing some of the most important lessons he had learned.
"I grew up in a very small village with a very poor life," said Khabib in comments shared by MMA Fighting.
"My father, he brought us from village, he sold our house and he brings me, my brother, my cousins, it was almost like 15 people from village to capital city.
"He rented a very big house and we all were living together. We would eat together. We were going to school, come back, training, come back, just father, trying to invest everything we have. Time, energy, money, he invested in us. He invested in us."
From those humble beginnings, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov raised Khabib and a host of other championship-winning mixed martial artists - and Khabib said investing in people was one of his key messages.
"All his life he was doing, he was investing in people. This is very big motivation for me. Even now when I'm finished, right now I'm trying to invest in people. Because this is the best investment."
An emotional Khabib admitted that his views had shifted following his father's death, and that he placed much less emphasis on material things than in his youth.
"I can do whatever I want in the world," said Khabib. "I can buy any house in the world, but this is gives me good energy. This is not who I am. This is not what my father taught me. I'm very happy about this because I remember like 10 years ago, my mind was completely different. 'Oh, I'm going to become champion. I'm going to become rich. I'm going to buy everything.'
"But everything what happened the last two years, this has changed my mind and changed the way how I was thinking. It was the third of July 2020, almost two years ago, it's going to be two years that father is not with me. It's a very hard time standing here and talking about him. It's very emotional for me."
Since retiring, Khabib has taken on his father's coaching legacy, helping the rise of Islam Makhachev to the verge of a shot at the 155lbs title which Khabib himself once owned.
"I really believe [Islam is] going to become champion. Why do I talk about Islam? Because this is my father's legacy," vowed Khabib, adding that Makhachev would not be the only one to be crowned UFC champion from among his crop of fighters.