‘Ronaldo’s an inspiration for anyone’: Umar Nurmagomedov talks Cristiano, football & Khabib
Umar, 23, made his foray into professional MMA in 2016, and has gone 11-0 in his career so far. Before carving out a path in the fight industry, Umar spent his youth playing football in his home village in Dagestan, Russia’s North Caucasus region famous for producing a high number of talented martial artists.
RT Sport spoke to Umar during a filming of the 'Dagestan: Land of Warriors' documentary in the Republic's capital city of Makhachkala.
In one of the outtakes, the young fighter talked about village football tournaments, inspiration, and his relationship with Khabib.
“We play football pretty often. We get together with friends. We even had a tournament in our village, a village championship. The prize money was good, we made teams based on who lives on which street,” Umar recalled of his younger days in Dagestan.
“There were 13 teams, it was pretty cool. Of course, everyone plays football I think. I played in the tournament with my little brother and we won.”
Although not heavily interested in watching the game, Umar would began listening to the tales of older cousin Khabib Nurmagomedov, a football fanatic and follower of local team Anzhi Makhachkala and Real Madrid.
From those stories, Umar picked out one hero Khabib mentioned as an inspiration for not just footballers, fighters or even athletes, but people the world over.
“I don’t really follow football to be honest. I started getting into when I began traveling around with Khabib,” he said. "I listened to him talking about football a lot. He knows almost every player, every league. I just played, I never watched, now I follow a little bit. There’s not particular team that I support."
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Great to see you champ. G.O.A.T. @cristiano Congratulations on your beautiful performance yesterday night. Вчера по приглашению королевского клуба @realmadrid посетил их матч. После игры увидился с одним из величайших футболистов за всю историю футбола @cristiano Для меня это было очень эмоционально, так как я являюсь большим любителем игры Португальца и самой команды #РеалМадрид
“When you watch Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s been at the top level for 10-12 years. He’s one of the worlds’ best footballers. Of course he’s an inspiration, because he stays at the top all the time. It’s definitely an example for anyone."
“Because you see that he’s already made it, but he still works hard. Ronaldo has a lot of money, but he still has the motivation to keep pushing. I think that’s why he’s a good example and anyone can learn from him."
Khabib crossed paths with Ronaldo in early 2018, with the then-Real Madrid forward presenting Khabib, three months shy of winning his UFC lightweight crown, with a number 7 Los Blancos jersey with his name.Also on rt.com ‘In Dagestan, you have to fight for respect’ – meet Nurmagomedov Jr.
Ronaldo, who moved to Juventus that summer, was photographed wearing Khabib’s signature papakha hat he received as a gift in return.
Khabib will be wearing that same headgear after this Saturday's UFC 242 main event in Abu Dhabi, when he will be defending his title against interim champion Dustin Poirier. Whether it will sit atop the head of the winner or loser of that matchup, still remains to be seen.