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Khabib Nurmagomedov says he doesn’t miss fighting: ‘It was never inside my heart’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Khabib Nurmagomedov will always be remembered as one of the greatest mixed martial artists in history, and he retired in the prime of his career.

That probably explains why it’s difficult for the former UFC lightweight champion to escape questions about a potential comeback, no matter how many times he swears that he never plans to compete again. While the word retirement rarely equates to forever in combat sports, Nurmagomedov is resolute in his decision — and he admits that he doesn’t really miss the sport since hanging up his gloves in late 2020.

“Honestly no [I don’t miss it],” Nurmagomedov told The Muslim Money Guys podcast. “When I miss something like competition, I go to the gym and wrestle, grapple, train. I spend my energy there. Like comeback? Go to the cage? No, I don’t miss it.

“Because all my life, it was on my hands, not inside my heart. It was never inside my heart. Of course I like it, you have to love what you’re doing. I was a very big fan of sports because my goal was to become the best, to become the champion like everybody has to do. But when I’m finished, I’m finished.”

Whether it’s the thirst for competition, the money that accompanies the biggest events in the sport or just the desire to remain the best, fighters almost universally have a tough time calling it quits.

That’s why it’s so rare for anybody to leave on top, but that’s exactly what Nurmagomedov did after moving to 29-0 in his career following a successful defense of the UFC lightweight title with a submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

As soon as Nurmagomedov announced his retirement and relinquished his title, the now 34-year-old Dagestani native was completely satisfied with everything he had accomplished and there was no longing left inside him to compete again.

“It’s easy. It’s very easy [to walk away],” Nurmagomedov said. “If it’s inside your heart, to leave this alone it’s very hard. It was inside my heart. Now finished, I go do other things.”

Despite his insistence that he’s done fighting, Nurmagomedov is still forced to entertain questions about any possible opponent that might draw him back for one more fight.

For several years, Nurmagomedov said that his dream fight would be against former two-division UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, but now even that opportunity wouldn’t make him flinch when it comes to his decision that he’s done with fighting for good.

To hear him tell it, Nurmagomedov knows everybody has an expiration date in combat sports and his has passed, which is why he’s happy to stay retired and let the next generation of fighters take his place.

“Nothing [would make me return],” Nurmagomedov said. “Never. I leave this sport alone, without myself. There is always going to be some champion without my name, too. It’s going to be Charles Oliveira, it’s going to be Islam [Makhachev] or another name after Islam because Islam is not going to be there all his life. Short time, a couple of years, finished.

“This is a high-level sport. I was champion, right now I’m not champion and this is normal. You can never be champion all like seven years, eight years. There is a couple of years, that’s your prime time. Finished, bye-bye. You can stay just to make money but you’ll never be champion.”

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