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Umar Nurmagomedov reacts to his cousin and coach Khabib Nurmagomedov stepping away from MMA

UFC 272: Covington v Masvidal Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Umar Nurmagomedov will seek to remain undefeated when he returns at UFC Vegas 67 on Saturday but he’ll also be competing without his cousin and coach Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner.

After making the transition from fighter to coach and watching his teammates pick up several major championships — including Islam Makhachev claiming the UFC lightweight title and Usman Nurmagomedov becoming Bellator lightweight champion — the 34-year-old Dagestani native decided to take a break from the sport to spend more time at home with his family.

While the door to return to coaching isn’t necessarily closed forever, Khabib was dealing with an arduous travel schedule that required him to be away from his family for months at a time. Now he wants to dedicate himself more to other businesses outside of fighting while putting his primary focus on being a husband and father.

For his part, Umar says that his cousin’s decision won’t stop him from coaching — he just won’t be present for each and every fight moving forward.

“He’s my brother and with me he can’t go away,” Nurmagomedov said at UFC Vegas 67 media day. “I was calling him, talking with him about this fight, about cutting weight. [Khabib] was stopping too much flying.

“When we will go home, I will train with him. I’m going to go to his home and say to him, let’s go to training. This guy, all the time training. He cannot stop.”

Since retiring from active competition, Khabib assumed a new role as a coach and mentor to other fighters, which was exactly what his father Abdulmanap did for so many athletes growing up in Dagestan.

Khabib has been praised by his teammates as a mirror image to his father when working with them in the gym so his absence moving forward will undoubtedly have some impact on the fighters.

Umar admits having Khabib around is always a big piece of the puzzle whenever he’s competing but at the same time, he ultimately has to go into that cage alone no matter who’s standing in his corner for any particular fight.

“Of course, this is a very big motivation when he’s close,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t know how we can be better. Everything, if you have to train and you do a good camp, do hard work and you’re ready, this does not matter. You have to go inside the cage [by yourself],”

With his focus on Raoni Barcelos on Saturday, Umar says he hasn’t had time to sit down and have a full conversation yet with Khabib about his decision to take a sabbatical from the sport.

Regardless of his plans, Umar still expects Khabib to offer him advice and help, especially whenever he returns home again.

That will be valuable advice as Umar targets a run towards the UFC bantamweight title next year but first he’s hoping for a very busy 2023 to put him in that position.

“I’m ready to be champion,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’m ready for a fight with anybody in the world. It doesn’t matter which organization is the champion, I’m ready. I was training with very, very tough guys and they didn’t do nothing. I think I’m ready.

“I think next year [I will fight for the title]. This year, I’m going to do three or four fights and end of this year, I think I will be the [No. 1 contender].”

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