Khabib Nurmagomedov was left distressed and worried for Islam Makhachev ahead of UFC 284 according to their coach Javier Mendez. It was Makhachev’s first title defense and was going against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Debated results aside, the fight proved a thrilling and challenging back-and-forth affair. In the end, however, it was Islam who walked away with his hand raised—marking a successful first title defense.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was worried about Makhachev
Fans know Khabib Nurmagomedov as a fighter with a stoic persona. But according to American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez, ‘The Eagle’ was a little rattled in the buildup to his protege’s latest bout.
“Khabib would call me up and would say, ‘Coach, I’m really worried about this fight,” Mendez said on the Jibber with Jabar podcast (transcript via MMA Mania). “Volkanovski is really tough, I’m concerned for Islam a little bit on this one.
“I was like, ‘I’m not. We’re gonna win this fight. I don’t know how easy or how hard, but we’re gonna win this fight. So, I know you’re worried, Khabib, but I’m not worried.’”
Khabib Nurmagomedov walked away from the sport
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s concern for his longtime teammate could stem from his own absence from the sport and from Makhachev’s corner at UFC 284. In January, the 34-year-old former lightweight champion announced that he would walk away from MMA as a whole, including his coaching duties.
“The year certainly turned out to be very busy and successful,” he said in an Instagram post. “Take care of yourself brothers. I hope my decision is only for the best, a big hug to you all. Thank you, you were a big reason for my success in sports.”
What’s next for Islam Makhachev?
It’s still, perhaps, a little unclear as to whether or not Khabib Nurmagomedov will ever return to coaching MMA at the highest levels. It would certainly feel like a shame if he never returned, considering the success he and his late father had forming a top tier team of athletes out of Dagestan. Meanwhile, however, Makhachev has been left sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a new challenger. At one point, he even called out Beneil Dariush for a potential title fight.
Dariush was supposed to fight former champion Charles Oliveira at UFC 288 in May, but the fight was scrapped after the latter was forced off due to an injury. Currently it appears the UFC is looking to rebook the bout for the following month, in June, at UFC 289. While that plan has yet to be finalized, Dariush has claimed that he’s been guaranteed both a title shot and pay bump if Oliveira pulls out in their rescheduled booking, planned for June 10th.
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