Khabib Nurmagomedov established himself as a formidable name in the UFC and MMA as a whole. “The Eagle” remained dominant and undefeated throughout entire professional run and retired in 2020 with the undisputed lightweight belt in his possession.
But for UFC veteran and former interim title challenger Kevin Lee, the Dagestani Hall of Famer does have one flaw that he felt he could’ve taken advantage of.
Lee reveals Khabib Nurmagomedov’s weakness
“There was a few times where we would’ve fought. But yeah, had I beat Tony, had things been a little bit different, that would’ve been just a massive fight,” he said.
With that in mind, the “Motown Phenom” revealed what he thought was a hole in Khabib’s perceived flawless game.
“I thought that his body was open. I thought that he stood very square. I thought that pressure forward style and kind of take it on the chin doesn’t lend well to shots to the body. And it would’ve opened up eventually for a head kick.”
Lee, who will make his Octagon return this weekend at UFC Vegas 75 against Rinat Fakhretdinov, admits that the conversation about a bout with the now-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov is a moot point.
“I don’t necessarily want to talk about fighting Khabib ‘cause it’s kind of pointless. I’ll do it because it’s interesting, the fighting style. I love fighting so much, I love MMA, I love breaking down different fighters and what their attributes are, what they’re capable of.
“It’s interesting, but it’s pointless at the end of the day. He’s gone and it didn’t happen, so there’s no sense in focusing on the past.”
For what it’s worth, Lee does have an iconic head kick win in his resume.
Lee felt he would’ve been a legitimate threat against Khabib Nurmagomedov
In his UFC career alone, Khabib Nurmagomedov pretty much barreled through every opponent put in front of him. His title reign included stoppages over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje.
But even then, Lee already saw a potential threat to Khabib.
“That’s just a guy I want to test myself against,” Lee said of Khabib in a 2021 interview. “And yeah, he’s a great champion and all that, but people even now are starting to see that he didn’t really have the challenges that he should have had to really be an all-time great.
“He never really fought a great wrestler and that was something that I was seeing the whole time coming up.”
What’s Khabib Nurmagomedov up to these days?
After retiring from competition three years ago with a 29-0 record, Khabib Nurmagomedov took on a mentor role to his cousins and long-time training partner and current champion Islam Makhachev. He was present when Makhachev won the vacant title from Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 last October. Khabib also runs his own promotion Eagle FC, where Lee defeated TUF alum Diego Sanchez last March.
Khabib, however, walked away from all involvements with the sport in early 2023 to focus on his personal life. But according to longtime teammate Daniel Cormier, Nurmagomedov has been back on the mats and looking “skinny” than usual.
“All the boys are back at AKA. Khabib’s back,” Cormier told Makhachev in an interview on his YouTube channel two weeks ago. “Khabib is looking skinny, bro. Khabib lost some real weight. He looked real thin when he was back at AKA.
As for Lee, he promises to make a strong impression at welterweight, despite his issues about fighting at the UFC APEX, post-pandemic.
“The fans haven’t really seen me since I fought Charles Oliveira (in 2020) and are going to see a different version of me in this fight,” he said during the pre-fight presser for UFC Vegas 76. “A bigger, stronger, more mature, faster version and I’m excited to show that.”
UFC Vegas 76 will be headlined by a middleweight bout between Sean Strickland and Abusupiyan Magomedov.
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