Khabib Nurmagomedov had plenty of influences in his career who helped lead him to a historic run through the UFC and a perfect 29-0 record before retiring. But it’s hard to imagine anybody had a bigger impact than his father.
On Thursday as he was inducted into the UFC Hall of fame, the ex-lightweight champion got emotional paying tribute to his father Abdulmanap, who sadly passed away almost exactly two years ago due to complications caused by COVID-19.
As he detailed his journey to become one of the most dominant fighters to ever compete in the UFC, Nurmagomedove couldn’t help but give credit to humble beginnings and the time his father sacrificed to allow him to reach such great heights.
“I grew up in a very small village with a very poor life,” Nurmagomedov explained. “My father, he bring 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 was living together. We would eat together. We was 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 this house comes six world champions, UFC champions, a lot of champions and very good people because father invested everything that we have. He gave us a good education. He gave us good opportunity to learn in good schools, university, he invested everything he had. 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.”
Beyond the learning he did in school, Nurmagomedov also trained in multiple disciplines of wrestling as well as Russian sambo as his father prepared him for a future where he could become a UFC champion.
There was no rest for the weary in the Nurmagomedov home, as Khabib had to work for everything he wanted because his father wouldn’t allow him to do anything different.
“I remember when I asked him when I was young, I was very young, maybe six or seven years old, it was a lesson for all my life — I asked him for money,” Nurmagomedov said. “He said ‘OK, I’m going to give you money, but you have to deserve this.
“‘You think I’m going to give you everything what you want? No, you have to deserve this.’ It was a very big lesson.”
According to Nurmagomedov, that lesson stuck with him throughout his life and it’s a valuable piece of advice he passed along to anyone and everyone listening to his speech.
“I know there’s a lot of fathers and millions of people watching us on TV, YouTube, like everywhere, if you guys want to give good money, education so they become successful — don’t give them everything what they want,” Nurmagomedov said. “You guys have to show by yourself, be an example for your kids.
“This is very important. A lot of fathers tell their sons, ‘Don’t go there, don’t do this, do this, be on this way.’ No, you have to be on good way and your son is going to follow you or your daughter’s going to follow you. Your kid’s going to follow you. Just be an example for your kids. This is my advice for all fathers and mothers.”
Even after he became UFC champion as well as one of the wealthiest athletes in the sport, Nurmagomedov never forgot what his father taught him, and he continues to reference those lessons even now.
The loss of his father also changed Nurmagomedov’s perspective forever, which is why his UFC Hall of Fame induction was such an emotionally charged moment for him.
“I can do whatever I want in the world,” Nurmagomedov explained. “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 teach 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.”
Nurmagomedov continues to carry on his father’s work by giving back to the next generation of athletes, including current UFC lightweight contender Islam Makhachev, who counted Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov as his coach over the years as well.
The 33-year-old Dagestan native believes that will be the best way to honor his father moving forward — by teaching those same lessons he learned to the fighters who seem destined to become champions themselves.
“Right now what I’m doing, you guys believe me, if nothing happens the next four or five years, we’re going to have three more UFC champions from our gym,” Nurmagomedov said. “Believe me, guys. You can save this video, and you’re going to understand what I’m talking about.
“I really believe [Islam is] going to become champion. Why do I talk about Islam? Because this is my father’s legacy.”