If fans have ever wondered why most fighters have such a sizeable chip on their shoulder—beyond the innate competitiveness that seems to drive most pro athletes—look no further than dear old mom.
More so than most, combat sports are an athletic activity for which danger is an inherent part of the game. Show me a fighter and I’ll find you someone who has had family members regularly ask them ‘When are you going to stop doing this and get a real job?’ Even, it turns out, if that fighter is one of the very best in the world at what he does.
Khabib Nurmagomedov famously handed in his quitting papers after his third defense of the UFC lightweight title, telling reporters after the fact that his mom was a major motivator for stepping away from MMA.
“…I talked with my mother (for) three days,” Nurmagomedov revealed, speaking on his decision to fight Justin Gaethje. “She didn’t want me to fight without father, but I promised her it was going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”
In a recent interview with UFC Russia, current lightweight champ—and Khabib disciple—Islam Makhachev said that he too still finds his mom urging him to retire from competition and follow in the ‘Eagle’’s footsteps.
“My mother doesn’t watch fights,” Makhachev told UFC Russia (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Not just my fights, fights in general. She doesn’t like seeing people hit each other.
“When I came home [after winning the title], there were a lot of people there. She said, ‘You’re champion now. Wrap it up. Khabib listened to his mother, when will you listen to yours?’”
“I told her Khabib defended his title and I need to do the same,” Makhachev said. “It’s a hard topic for my mother. My father’s the opposite. He watches all the fights.”
If Makhachev seems like he’s got a little extra fire to him next time he steps into the Octagon, just remember that he’s still got to prove to his mom that he didn’t make the wrong move by turning down the chance to get a dependable, safe desk job—or go back to school like that nice Magomedsharipov boy.
No word yet on who the Dagestani will face next time he steps into the Octagon. Alexander Volkanovski is currently campaigning for an instant rematch against the champ after coming up short at UFC 284 in his bid to capture a second belt. Otherwise, an upcoming UFC 288 bout between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush may just decide the next top contender, if Dustin Poirier doesn’t get there first.
About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013.(full bio)
About the author