UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov has announced ambitious plans for a new gym and competition in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking on the sidelines of the UAE Warriors-14 at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi on Friday, Khabib said he was working on multiple projects with the promotion, and how much he "loved the UAE".
Khabib retired from Mixed Martial Arts after his lightweight world title defence against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi in October, stretching his unbeaten record to 29.
He said he is keen to move on with plans that include the first Khabib Gym in Abu Dhabi next year and a competition in partnership with UAE Warriors to commemorate his late father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, scheduled for January 16.
“I’m working on many projects and Abu Dhabi is one of the main partners. It’s not only my projects but I’m ready to support Abu Dhabi in whatever projects they plan to do,” the Russian said.
“We already have agreed on the competition date and the plan is to launch the first Khabib Gym in Abu Dhabi before it’s introduced to the rest of the world.”
Khabib believes the Warriors can provide aspiring fighters with the opportunity to take part in the 10-15 bouts needed to reach UFC level.
“This region and the Middle East has huge potential (if the UAE Warriors want to build on),” he said.
“I know that because I have been travelling around this region and around the world.
“We have many projects, and next year if the pandemic is over or if it gets controlled, hopefully, we can even go places like New York and Vegas. If they need me, I’m there to support.”
Khabib considers Abu Dhabi not only as a hub for MMA but as one of the safest places on earth.
“I have travelled around the world everywhere and in my opinion this is most safe place besides being a combat sport hub,” he said.
“I really love the UAE, its people and the hospitality. For me it’s a big honour to always come back here.”
Khabib, 32, is determined to stay active despite ending his career in the octagon.
“If I finish fighting, it doesn’t mean that I have finished everything,” he added.
“I’m going to be here to support young guys and support good people. I work on many projects. You see (pointing at his attire); I am wearing this suit as I move around as a business-person.
“It’s going to be a very busy period for me. I don’t want to lose focus and my team to lose focus on the projects we are planning. I want to spend a lot of time in my business projects.”
Khabib also revealed his passion for football and as a follower of the Arabian Gulf League.
“I’m a big football fan and follow many different leagues as possible aside from the World Cup, European Cup,” he said.
“In my opinion football is at a different level than other sports. MMA promotion is going to be upset with me for making this comment but it is true.”
Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of Palms Sports who manage the UAE Warriors, said they were glad to have Khabib involved in their events and recognise his father’s contributions to the sport.
“Abu Dhabi is Khabib’s second home and we are looking forward to his continued support to our promotion,” he added.
Fouad Darwish, general manager of Palms Sports, said they have planned a series of projects with Khabib.
“The first is the commemoration of his late father,” he said. “The UAE Warriors and Khabib’s organisation will organise a fight-card together. For now, we don’t know if it’s going to be an annual one or a series of events, but that’s a start.”