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Daniel Cormier: Khabib Nurmagomedov paying teammates’ fines is ‘the most honorable thing I’ve ever seen’

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Having trained together at American Kickboxing Academy, Daniel Cormier is accustomed to seeing Khabib Nurmagomedov show off his martial arts prowess. However, he’s even more impressed by how Nurmagomedov has conducted himself in the wake of the UFC 229 brawl.

Back on Oct. 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, following his submission win over Conor McGregor, Nurmagomedov sparked a melee by exiting the cage to confront McGregor’s cornerman Dillon Danis. In addition to the physicality between Nurmagomedov and Danis, Nurmagomedov’s teammates Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Zubaira Tukhugov exchanged punches with McGregor on top of and inside the cage.

The fiasco led to fines and suspensions for all involved, with Nurmagomedov receiving a $500,000 fine and a nine-month suspension and the lightweight champion’s associates being put on the shelf for a year. Abubakar and Tukhugov were also fined $25,000 each.

Cormier appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday and he confirmed that not only is Nurmagomedov planning to sit out as long as Abubakar and Tukhugov are unable to compete, he’s handling their fines as well. The gesture was not lost on Cormier, who praised Nurmagomedov’s values in regards to looking after his teammates.

“I think that Khabib is doing the most honorable thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cormier said. “Not many guys will pay the fine, the 500 grand, also pay the fines of your teammates and brothers. He’s paying their money too. Whatever they fine [Abubakar and Tukhugov], he’s gonna pay it too. Those are his brothers. They were acting to help him, I guess. They’re suspended longer, he will sit with them. That’s one thing about those guys and their lifestyle and their community is that they are family at the highest level and what he’s doing is so honorable. Not many people would do that. He’s doing it with the idea that even if they take his title, it does not mean more to him than standing next to his brothers. It doesn’t get any better than that. I appreciate it. I do think the fine was steep. Whatever.

“He also said that he’s not gonna fight there anymore. He’s very firm in his approach, he’s very firm in what he wants to convey to the world. I’m very proud of him. I’m proud of the man that Khabib has become from the moment he walked into AKA to who he is today, I’m very proud of him.”

Nurmagomedov and Cormier are just two of the UFC champions that AKA has produced over the course of the past decade, a list that includes Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold. It’s been a delicate balance for the gym, given that Cormier could theoretically be in the same competitive sphere as Velasquez and Rockhold.

The heavyweight belt currently sits around Cormier’s waist, a title that Velasquez won on two occasions. And Cormier rose up through the UFC ranks as a light heavyweight, the division that Rockhold is making a permanent move to. For all three, the timing has worked out (Cormier is likely to return to 205 pounds only for a trilogy bout with Jon Jones and should he retire in 2019 as planned, that will clear the way for Velasquez to possibly regain the championship), but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments where their personalities could have clashed.

Cormier credits head coaches Javier Mendez and Bob Cook with steering the AKA ship away from treacherous waters.

“People usually, it’s the ego is normally the issue,” Cormier said. “What I believe Javier Mendez and Bob Cook do so tremendously is they control egos. We as fighters, we’re men and people always ask me stuff like, ‘Can you beat Khabib?’ ‘Nope.’

“‘Can you beat Luke?’

“‘Nope.’

“‘Can you beat Cain?’

“‘Nope.’

“Because the moment you start spewing that negativity in the world, people run away with it. We’re all brothers and all we want is for the other one to be successful. It’s just you check your ego at the door because nobody is in there everyday as the very best.

“It’s not even just us four, other guys in the gym can take it to you on any given day. You can go in there as a heavyweight and Justin Willis can put it on you. You have to be open to learn and know that no one part is bigger than the machine. AKA is going to be around forever. That’s why it’s sustained the test of time. So many gyms have come and gone since those guys opened the doors of the American Kickboxing Academy and it has long stayed at the top of the game and it’s going to be there long after we’re gone.”