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2 Feb, 2019 16:48

‘Hockey with Putin? Why not...?’ – Khabib on fame, Russian president & meeting DiCaprio

‘Hockey with Putin? Why not...?’ – Khabib on fame, Russian president & meeting DiCaprio

UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has spoken about his propulsion to global stardom after he defeated Conor McGregor last year, discussing his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio.

In a wide-ranging interview with Russian channel Match TV, Nurmagomedov spoke about the levels of fame he has reached since he submitted Irish MMA megastar McGregor in Las Vegas at UFC 229 in October.

Nurmagomedov has since been feted in his Russian homeland, as well as embarking on global trips to meet politicians and adoring fans.

Despite the attention, the undefeated fighter refused to label himself "a superstar."

“I wouldn't call myself a superstar, I don’t feel like a superstar,” he told Match TV. 

“If you think about it too much, it’s very bad… it can change your outlook on life.

“[But] I feel the [increased] popularity, I get recognized where I didn’t before, and asked for photos.”

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With his fame formerly confined to MMA circles, Nurmagomedov’s rise to broader recognition undoubtedly came when he tapped out McGregor in the fourth round at T-Mobile Arena.    

That victory was followed by chaotic scenes as he attacked a member of McGregor’s team beside the octagon, as pre-fight animosity boiled over into a mass brawl – for which both Nurmagomedov and McGregor were recently fined and banned.  

Nurmagomedov was called shortly after his victory by Russian President Putin to congratulate him, and that was followed up with a meeting with the leader in person when the UFC lightweight champ returned to Russia a week later.

Also on rt.com Khabib meets Putin: Russian president congratulates UFC champ on ‘worthy’ victory

When asked if he had been surprised to be invited to meet Putin, Nurmagomedov said:  “I was more surprised when called me right after the fight… I was pleasantly surprised.

“It’s nice, you know, when the head of state phones you and praises you for your efforts… Especially when I was sitting in the locker room, surrounded by security staff who were protecting me from 20,000 unhappy fans.

“And at that moment Vladimir Vladimirovich phoned me. It was really nice to hear his speech, how he praised me and said that the country was proud and was waiting to welcome me home.”

READ MORE: Putin to Khabib on UFC brawl: ‘When someone provokes us from outside, there can be hell to pay’

When asked his thoughts on another global leader, Donald Trump, Nurmagomedov said he had a question to put to the US president.  

“I have a question for him: what about my dad’s visa?” the 30-year-old Dagestani said, referring to his father and trainer Abdulmanap’s failure to receive permission to enter the US before UFC 229.  

“But we could sort that out by phone,” Nurmagomedov added with a smile.

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The UFC champ is a big football fan, and was seen earlier this season at a Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool in the French capital.

READ MORE: 'Put him in midfield!' Football-mad Khabib watches PSG v Liverpool UCL clash (PHOTOS)

He was seated amid a cluster of celebrities that night, including veteran rocker Mick Jagger and Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.   

“Honestly, I didn’t recognize them, apart from Leonardo DiCaprio… He’s a big fan [of MMA].

“He told me, 'I was sitting 5 meters away [when you jumped the cage at UFC 229], you nearly landed on me!'

“We chatted… he invited us to dinner in a restaurant in the center of Paris. It was interesting for me how he would sit there [amid so many people]…

“He’s a regular guy, but it was surprising to me, when people came up to him for a photo, he said ‘I don’t take photos.’ I asked why, and he said it’s not possible to make everyone happy.

“He said he only takes photos with kids… with everyone else it’s not possible. That surprised me, but in general he’s a regular guy.”

Aside from football, Nurmagomedov says he has a budding interest in skating and ice hockey, but that he was very much a beginner in that respect.

“I’ve never been on skis, I’m trying to learn to skate,” he said.

Would he consider taking to the ice alongside well-known hockey fanatic Putin?  

“Maybe, why not? But first I need to learn to stand up.  

“My father didn’t let me do it before because he said I could get injured, and that I don’t need hockey. But at the moment we’re trying to open an ice hockey arena in Dagestan,” he added. 

Also on rt.com 'Hope they won't take it to the stands!': Khabib breaks down ice hockey fight (VIDEO)

Meetings with world leaders, Hollywood bigshots, and plans to help open an ice hockey arena. Such is the newfound order of things for Khabib Nurmagomedov.