Khabib Nurmagomedov believes Conor McGregor is “finished” as a fighter at the top of the UFC, saying the sport is in a bad place should it keep supporting his former rival.
The Dagestan native, who retired from mixed martial arts in Abu Dhabi in October, has significant history with McGregor following the controversial build-up to, and fallout from, their money-spinning bout at UFC 229 in Las Vegas in 2018. Nurmagomedov won by fourth-round submission before jumping outside the octagon to spark a post-fight melee.
The former lightweight champion, unbeaten in 29 professional MMA appearances, watched McGregor’s defeat to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 on Sunday. The Irishman, looking to avenge his loss to the American in Abu Dhabi in January, suffered a gruesome leg break in the closing seconds of the first round in Las Vegas to lose by doctor's stoppage.
However, McGregor continued to aim insults at Poirier and his wife immediately afterwards, much as he did in the lead-up to their trilogy clash.
"Money and fame show who you are," Nurmagomedov told ESPN in an interview released early Tuesday. "All the time we hear that money and fame change people. No. When money and fame come, these two things show who you are.
“And what has [McGregor] done? He punched an old guy [in a bar in 2019]. You guys can watch everything he did and understand, it's just like Dustin said, 'This guy is a bag of [expletive].'
"I saw a lot of tweets try to support him. How are you going to support this guy? When kids, young generation watch him, watch this sport? If you want to promote your fight, promote.
"If the MMA community is going to support this bad people, this sport is going to go in a bad way."
McGregor, who last month was named by Forbes as the highest-earning athlete in the world for the past year, is now 1-3 in his past four fights in the UFC. The first fighter in the promotion to hold belts in two divisions simultaneously, McGregor underwent surgery on Sunday on his tibia and fibula, and reported afterwards that the operation went “perfect”.
The former two-weight world champion, 33 on Wednesday, anticipates he will be on crutches for six weeks, but vowed to then return “better than ever”.
Khabib Nurmagomedov beats Justin Gaethje in final fight
Nurmagomedov, though, feels his old foe will not be the same again.
"Without broken legs, yes," he said. "But with broken legs, he's never going to kick the same. With him, no, I don't believe [he'll return to the top]. Conor has [a] good age, but what happened with his mind, legs… this guy is finished. But he's good for promotion."
Meanwhile, Nurmagomedov reiterated his commitment to retirement, despite the best efforts of UFC president Dana White. White, who had tried in vain earlier this year to convince the champion to renege on his decision to call it quits, apparently contacted him again recently with another offer.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, the 32-year-old Nurmagomedov said: “He sent me a message and said, ‘Hey, Georges St-Pierre wants to fight with you'. “I said, ‘What can I do?’ I don’t know. I’m finished, you know?
"I think Georges is finished, too. Let this guy be a legend. He’s 40 years old and I don’t understand why he has to fight. I think he has money, too. I’m finished. I’m really finished.”
“I’m only 32 years old. People are going to talk about this maybe the next seven, eight years. Because for MMA, a lot of guys on the top are 37, 38, 39. They’re still on the top. People are going to talk about this until that day comes, I think.”