Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makahchev’s manager Ali Abdelaziz believes the current top-five lightweight has more tools to utilize than “The Eagle” did.
Khabib, who is widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, retired from the sport following his victory over Justin Gaethje last October. In the UFC 254 main event, the Dagestani successfully defended his UFC lightweight gold by putting “The Highlight” to sleep with a second-round triangle choke.
Prior to calling an end to his unblemished 29-0 career in the cage, Khabib had also retained his title with submission victories over #1-ranked contender Dustin Poirier and former two-division champion Conor McGregor.
Since Khabib’s departure from active competition, one man has been hailed as the heir to the great Russian’s throne. That individual is the former champ’s friend and teammate Islam Makhachev. The 30-year-old boasts victories over Drew Dober and Thiago Moises in 2021. His victory over the Brazilian in the UFC Vegas 31 main event saw him climb into the lightweight top-five in July.
While many believe he can replicate Khabib’s championship success, Ali Abdelaziz, who manages both men, believes he could go further. During an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, the Dominance MMA CEO suggested Makhachev has more tools than “The Eagle” inside the Octagon.
“I’ve seen Islam, for the last seven years, training with Luke Rockhold, with DC [Daniel Cormier], and beating some of these guys. I’m talking about a lightweight division guy beating these guys. Skill level, I think if you compare Khabib and Islam, I think Islam’s got more tools, a lot more tools. And he’s the guy, like Kamaru [Usman], nobody wanted to fight Kamaru for a long time. Nobody wanted to fight Khabib for a long time… people don’t even want to mention his [Makhachev’s] name.”
Abdelaziz went on to describe what it’s like to train with Makhachev compared to with Khabib and UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. According to the manager, the #5-ranked lightweight contender is the only one who didn’t let him breathe.
“He’s the last guy I want to train with. I hate training with him, and I train with some of the best guys. I’m not saying I’m anything good. But he’s the worst guy to train with. He beats your ass, pole to pole, minute to minute, second to second. Khabib will let you breath a little, Kamaru will let you breathe, this guy doesn’t let you breathe. He is one of the best competitors I ever trained with.”
Makhachev will have the chance to prove Abdelaziz right when he returns to the Octagon later this month. The Russian was initially set to face long-time rival Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 267. Following the Brazilian’s withdrawal due to injury, Dan Hooker has stepped up on short notice. The New Zealander accepted the Abu Dhabi clash just days out from his victory over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 last month.
If Makhachev defeats “The Hangman,” he will have secured three triumphs this year and will certainly move a big step closer to the 155-pound gold. Beyond that, his quest to match Khabib’s legacy will continue.
Do you think Islam Makhachev can surpass Khabib Nurmagomedov’s legacy inside the Octagon?