by Senji Torrey
Media Production Editor
On Oct. 24, mixed-martial artist Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov retired after 12 years in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). With this retirement comes talk of GOAT, or “Greatest of All Time,” status. In theory, GOATs rewrite and redefine the narrative of what it means to be a “great” individual in their sport and as a universal athlete, and Khabib Nurmagomedov achieved this sacred feat.
Nurmagomedov’s favorable physique is not the only reason for his GOAT status worthy 29-0 win-loss record. To achieve such a perfect record of wins, Nurmagomedov uses his unique, self-proclaimed “maul” ability. He uses his childhood training of wrestling real bears to pin the opponent to the ground, while also battering them with punches.
Despite Nurmagomedov’s supremacy in the lightweight division, a small number of analysts have claimed that Nurmagomedov’s career falls short compared to that of light heavyweight fighter Jon Jones due to Jones’ 15 title defenses (compared to Nurmagomedov’s four defenses). This criticism is simply invalid: Jones is currently unranked on the UFC lightweight and heavyweight leaderboards. In addition, Jones has the minute snag of a 26-1 record that simply does not compare to Nurmagomedov’s perfect 29-0 record.
The title of GOAT is not an easy title to obtain. Many athletes, such as NFL all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith, who played their sports during times where the competition was abnormally difficult often are not recognized for their brilliance simply because the people around them were a little flashier or marginally better.
Just like Smith, Nurmagomedov participated in the UFC during the “Golden Age” of fighting. However, unlike the NFL legend, Nurmagomedov climbed to the top of the ladder and displayed his own brilliance unhindered by other elite lightweight fighters such as Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, both of whom Nurmagomedov submitted. This demonstration of dominance in spite of the unusually demanding fighting era in which he partook shows how Nurmagomedov simply fits the mold of a GOAT.
Outside of the competitive ring, Nurmagomedov and his late father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov started a program focused on elevating Russian mixed martial artists to the UFC level. This program, called Eagles MMA, is similar to many other camps that other GOAT athletes, such as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, have put on; both camps work with top athletes that would otherwise not be seen or scouted by the next level. This idea of not only working to benefit himself but also future Dagestan generations is what defines Nurmagomedov’s character, a character worthy of the title of GOAT.
Another aspect of Nurmagomedov’s character that differentiates himself from other fighters, as well as other GOATs, is his charitable efforts. Instead of sending money through big checks and donations to desperate causes to secure his standing as a Good Samaritan, Nurmagomedov often decides to tackle the problem itself. For instance, Nurmagomedov made a trip to Nigeria to not only finance the building of life-saving wells, medical centers, and mosques but to also build these structures. Nigeria is not historically welcoming to Muslims like Nurmagomedov, but his urge to help people in need negated the danger that he would have to face.
Not wanting to make himself seem like a foreign savior, Nurmagomedov did not use social media to boast about this trip and would not release the amount of money he spent and donated to the towns he worked on. This level of modesty and selflessness truly defines this individual’s character and his standing as a complete athlete both in and out of the octagon.
Inside of the ring, “The Eagle” has been the most consistently dominant fighter the UFC has ever seen. Outside of the octagon, Nurmagomedov again refuses to conform to the norms, making a change with his own two hands, and thus changing the lives of fighters and civilians alike. The contention that Nurmagomedov is inferior to another fighter who has lost fights and isn’t even ranked in his respective weight classes is obsolete. All of this creates an image of no contest: Nurmagomedov is the GOAT.
(Sources: RT Sports, ESPN, UFC, Global Empact)