Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) takes on interim Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje (22-0) this Saturday at UFC 254. An anticipated fight that many look at Khabib’s chance to cement his legacy once and for all. Cement him as the P4P great. Cement him as the most dominant fighter anyone has seen in MMS history. Though what is crazy with all this success, Khabib has had his legacy could have been more.
More? How do you say more? Khabib already has a great legacy. The man has beaten all the top guys in his division. The guy dominated his fierce rival, Conor McGregor. What more can Khabib do? Have you not seen the video of him wrestling a bear as a kid?
Yes, for as great as Khabib, his most recent wins have been impressive. But many forget that dark period in Khabib’s career. The period where Khabib was injured and looking to retire from the sport altogether.
The year is 2014, and Khabib is coming off another dominating win against Rafael Dos Anjos. It seems as if he is next—the next star for the UFC. With a humble attitude and lowkey outgoing personality, Khabib seemed like he would be a major star for the UFC.
With Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor rising the ranks, Khabib Nurmagomedov seemed primed to take on than UFC lightweight champ Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis in a big fight the lightweight title. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept Khabib sidelined.
Khabib missed out on prime time for him in MMA. Khabib had the chance to solidify himself as the kingpin of Lightweight. Maybe, just maybe, we would have gotten Khabib vs. Ferguson. Khabib could have seen a title reign that would have seen him fight guys such as Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, and maybe we even get to see the Nate Diaz score settled.
Imagine Khabib vs. McGregor but instead of Conor drinking his proper 12 and attacking a bus. We get Conor, the one who was motivated and hungry, fighting for the Featherweight title. That McGregor is taking on a prime Khabib. The PPV would have been successful either way, but the fight would have been much better than the effort, especially on the McGregor front.
UFC might be more inclined to want to do GSP vs. Khabib. With Khabib being an active fighter and a star, they would feel more comfortable in fighting GSP. A fight a long today gets people’s mouths to water. But imagine if the MMA Stock market, as GSP put it was in Khabib’s favor. George would be in favor of cutting down those extra pounds to fight a man he admires.
Sadly, none of that happened. Does this hurt Khabib’s career? The fact that he missed two prime years? In terms of being a star. No. No, it didn’t as Khabib is still considered one of the biggest stars in the sports. Though to many hardcore fans, the legacy isn’t complete.
Many take those two years that Khabib missed and use it against him. He does not have the most impressive resume before even winning the title has hurt him too. His most quality wins if you were looking at his record were Rafael Dos Anjos and Michael Johnson. Sure, his two most recent wins help over McGregor and Dustin Poirier, but even the Conor fight fans will put the asterisk of him fighting a “drunk coked-out McGregor.”
No one doubts his dominance. No one doubts his attitude, and no one doubts the record. What they suspect is the legacy, which is crazy that we’re questioning a guy who has gone 28-0 in MMA. 12 of those wins of the undefeated record coming from the UFC. Though they look at the quality of competition for many, and how often he fought that hurts his legacy.
Khabib Nurmagomedov may not have the legacy we all wanted for him, but in the end, he has the legacy that is perfect for him, and for Khabib, that is okay.