Khabib vows to bring back UFC belt during Moscow child clinic charity event (VIDEO)
Nurmagomedov, 28, is currently undergoing medical rehabilitation following health issues that caused the cancelation of his UFC 209 fight with Tony Ferguson back in March. He took the time during his recovery to visit those with health issues that are much more significant.
The Dagestan native visited young patients at a child neurology clinic in the southwest of the Russian capital, where he held a meet-and-greet session organized by the Eagles MMA team and Happy charity group.
The questions from the youngsters varied from those about dealing with many injuries throughout his life in sport, to very specific ones about his UFC career – much to the fighter’s surprise.
Answering a question about the role of his mentor in sports, Nurmagomedov mentioned that his father and lifelong coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov has always stressed the importance of education, which he has always prioritized over success in sport.
"Your brain needs training just as much as your body," he said.
"If any of you want to do sport, within your abilities, you shouldn’t forget about school, or about following recommendations from your doctors and parents."
Despite the serious illnesses that the children suffer from, many of them are still keen to participate in sport.
One of the children, who currently uses a wheelchair, performed an impressive dance stunt on the stage, using just his arms for strength.
Reacting to the routine, Nurmagomedov said he doubted that even when at full health he probably wouldn’t be able to match it.
The event finished with the UFC fighter handing out gifts to each of the children gathered in the clinic’s event hall, followed by a group photo on the stage. Nurmagomedov also signed autographs and posed for photos with the children and staff at the clinic.
Following the meeting, Nurmagomedov spoke exclusively to RT Sport to share his emotions on the event as well as his plans for a UFC comeback.
RT: Could you tell us a little more about this event today? How did it all come about?
Khabib Nurmagomedov: I was offered this opportunity back in November at the Eagles MMA team presentation, but since then I didn’t have a chance. Now, half a year later, since I’m going through rehabilitation in Moscow, I came here to meet and talk to the kids and bring at least some positive emotions for them.
RT: Is this the first time you’ve taken part in charity events?
KN: It’s my first time doing this kind of meeting with children. We’ve done fan meetings, seminars and so on. But it’s the first time we’ve done it with kids.
RT: Do you plan to do it more in the future?
KN: Yes, of course, why not? If people have an interest in it. Especially those children. If they want to meet, talk and take pictures, why not? Any time when I have an opportunity, I’ll do it again.
RT: Do you have any of your friends or loved ones who also suffer such serious illnesses?
KN: Yes, yes I do. A few of my relatives. I don’t want to name them, but I have personally faced it. So we go through it.
RT: Who originally brought up this idea with you?
KN: The idea came from Eagles MMA team PR manager Arslan Dotsiev, who was in contact with the ‘Happy Charity Group’. They originally came to the Eagles MMA team presentation, we’ve known each other since then. We’ll keep working together from now on.
RT: Is it especially important to you to take part in charity events during the Muslim month of Ramadan?
KH: To be honest, I didn’t pick the month, I just had this opportunity because I’m in Moscow now. If I were away now, it would have been hard for me to come here. But I promised to do it half a year ago. So I had to keep my word. But it’s Ramadan and all the good deeds are twice as important (for Muslims). So it’s twice as pleasant for me to be able to do this during Ramadan.
RT: Do you feel extra responsibility, now you know you have those children following you? They even asked you to come back with the belt next time.
KN: Of course I’d want to bring joy not only to myself, but to those who follow me. So yes, definitely.
RT: Do you have any certainty about your UFC comeback?
KN: I’m going through rehabilitation, as I said. I can’t give you a certain date. But it’s going to be this fall. I’ll take this summer to rehabilitate. In the fall, I’ll start my preparation and at the end of the fall I want to have a fight.
RT: Do you know if UFC will give you another chance to fight for the belt?
KN: Yes, I know. We’ll repeat the same fight again (with Ferguson for interim lightweight belt). I have no interest in any other fight. I have to finish my business with Tony Ferguson.
RT: Do you want to bring the belt to Russia for those children also?
KN: If God wills it. But there are many, many people waiting for this belt. But there’s probably no one who wants it more than I do. So I’ll do my best. We’ll keep working on it.