Khabib Nurmagomedov capped his career with a stunning performance against Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254, but his win was even bigger given the odds he faced heading into Saturday’s fight.
According to his head coach Javier Mendez, the UFC lightweight champion faced all kinds of adversities during training camp that slowed him down, but Nurmagomedov refused to stop.
“It was the worst camp we have ever had in the sense of preparation,” Mendez said Yahoo Sports. “The rooms were the best I have ever seen, the hospitality was the best in my life. But we had such bad luck.
“There was a staph infection in a lot of men and mumps. Khabib got mumps in two weeks [training camp] and I was like “oh my God, I’m so worried”. He trained for a very light week, then the next week he broke his toe next to the ear toe. Because of the broken toe, we were outside again.
Earlier that night, UFC president Dana White addressed Nurmagoemdov’s broken foot, which he only learned after the undefeated Russian claimed the 29th victory of his career.
Mendez admits that between illness and injury, he was rather concerned with Nurmagomedov’s ability to not only fight but perform at the same level that has kept him perfect throughout his career.
Fortunately, Nurmagomedov had no doubts.
“It was a very difficult camp,” Mendez said. “But Khabib said ‘Coach, maybe my toe is broken but my mind isn’t.’
“I said I knew and that’s when I knew he was going to fight through all of this adversity no matter what.
The end result was a second round submission victory, with Nurmagomedov retaining his UFC lightweight title one last time before calling it career when he announced his retirement after the fight.
Nurmagomedov obviously walks away with the absolute admiration of his head trainer for coming through the most difficult situations and always looking like the most dominant fighter on the planet.