Coach: Khabib Nurmagomedov never lost a sparring session

UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is 29-0. Perhaps even more incredibly, he’s only known to have lost two rounds, to Conor McGregor in Round 3 at UFC 229 and Justin Gaethje in Round 1 at UFC 254. In both cases, he came back to win the fight in the next round. And it gets more incredible still. In a recent interview with The National News, his coach, AKA founder Javier Mendez, said he’s never seen him lose a sparring session, since “The Eagle” walked into the San Jose gym in 2012 when he was18-0.

“The very first day he came into my gym. He destroyed everybody. He just smashed everybody,” said Mendez. “He didn’t really understand any English whatsoever. The funniest thing is that people would ask, ‘How good is Khabib?’ I’d go, ‘Man, that guy’s unbelievable. I just wish he’d listen. Because every time I tell him relax, relax, the guy goes crazy on me’. Well, later he comes back and goes, ‘Coach, I don’t understand. I thought that meant go harder. So I used to go harder’.”

“He’s never lost a sparring session. Never been choked out. He came close a couple of times. One of my guys, Kyle Crutchmer, who is a Division-One wrestler, almost had him choked.

“I was running to get my camera, thinking, ‘Man, I got to film this’, but he got out. I couldn’t believe it. And Kyle was so upset.

“People don’t really understand when I tell them I’ve never seen him lose a sparring session. Everybody loses sparring sessions. Not him. You might win a round or so. I’ve had that happen, but they don’t win the session. Either he’ll tap them out later, or he’ll dominate them to the point where he’s a winner. That’s unbelievable.”

And the coach is as enthusiastic about the man as he is about the fighter.

“Khabib is such a beautiful person,” said Mendez. “The things he does for all his guys; it’s unbelievable how he takes care of all the fighters on his team, his family. You’ll never meet another person that’s as generous as him with his family. And he looks for jobs for them. He puts them on the payroll.

“He’s never just about himself. For me, when you look at a Muslim man, the definition of what they stand for, look at Khabib. And it’s real.”

“It’s tough in Dagestan because he’s so famous. Let’s put it this way: I’m very famous there. If I walk down the street, I’m getting flagged down. People will stop their cars, come up, and take a photo with me. That’s how popular I am, because of him. So imagine him. He’s the national hero of all Russia, and then Dagestan, he’s their beloved everything. He can’t go anywhere.

“I talked to him, asked him how he deals with it, and he says it’s hard. Khabib just likes having his people around; he doesn’t thrive off the attention.”

“I would say almost everything Khabib is, he got from his father. His father was a disciplinarian; he was loyal; he had compassion for everybody; he always looked to help people. He was always building projects, and Khabib’s doing the same thing. So he’s following in his father’s footsteps, carrying the legacy of what his father represented.”

“Khabib’s got a lot to give back, especially to the region: building his gym and being who he is and using that platform to help and uplift other people. I think that’s going to be his purpose. We do things as athletes and we try to leave our mark on the world, but I believe it’s what you do after, when the lights aren’t as bright. And I believe Khabib will elevate so many people from the Dagestan region, just as his dad started to.”

Khabib says he is retired, but has remained in the USADA testing pool, leaving his options open. When McGregor and Dustin Poirier rematch in the main event of UFC 257 on January 24, Khabib will be watching. And he has meeting with Dana White on Fight Island to discuss his future.

UG, what do you think that future is?

Join the discussion on this topic...