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21 Feb, 2024 19:01

UFC boss reveals ‘Putin’s gifts’ to Russian star Khabib

Moments after a huge victory, Nurmagomedov was congratulated by the Russian leader, Dana White has said
UFC boss reveals ‘Putin’s gifts’ to Russian star Khabib

Khabib Nurmagomedov, one of the top combat sports athletes in Russia’s history, received lavish gifts from his country’s president, Vladimir Putin, following his victory over arch-rival Conor McGregor, UFC boss Dana White has claimed.

The UFC 229 mixed martial arts fight in Las Vegas in October 2018, pitted the Dagestani grappler – arguably the sport’s most dominant-ever champion – against the biggest superstar ever seen in the octagon, Ireland’s Conor McGregor.

Nurmagomedov claimed victory, forcing McGregor to concede defeat to a fourth-round submission in what was the most-watched fight in the sport’s history after a heated, fractious build-up.

But according to Dana White, Nurmagomedov earned a lot more that night than a measure of revenge. “He didn’t even make it back to his dressing room after the fight, and Putin was on the phone,” the UFC chief told the ‘Games with Names’ podcast on Tuesday.

“Putin gave him and his father, like, $20 million worth of property in Russia,” White claimed. “Then he went into the Muslim territories where these guys are like, cars, money, gyms, whatever he wanted.”

Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away in July 2020 after experiencing complications from Covid-19. Khabib would fight just once more after his father’s death before retiring with an unbeaten record of 29-0.

The post-fight bonus issued by the Russian leader to Nurmagomedov following his win over McGregor would have gone a long way toward eclipsing the $500,000 fine received by Khabib from the sport’s authorities for his part in a post-fight brawl.

In that incident, several of Nurmagomedov’s teammates entered the cage to attack McGregor, while Khabib attempted to confront McGregor’s training partner, Dillon Danis, outside the octagon.

Now, more than three years after stepping away from the UFC at the height of his powers, White said on the podcast that Nurmagomedov has so far resisted efforts by the Las Vegas-based fight organization to return.

“Once you get to that level [of Nurmagomedov’s fame], it’s like what we’re dealing with with Conor McGregor,” White explained on the podcast. “Conor McGregor lives in a yacht in the middle of where the warmest place in the world is at that time. Once you get to that level, you’re not getting up and getting punched in the face anymore.” 

Following his retirement, Nurmagomedov briefly acted as coach and cornerman for several Russian fighters, including current UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev. However, in January 2023 he permanently retired from all aspects of the sport, saying he intended to focus on his family.