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29 Jan, 2022 12:02

Khabib confesses nerves as Eagle FC impresses in US debut

Khabib Nurmagomedov's US debut as a fight promoter went off without a hitch on Friday night but the Russian icon admits it wasn't easy
Khabib confesses nerves as Eagle FC impresses in US debut

Former undisputed UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has seen it all in the cage but he admits he still has a lot to learn about the other side of the fight game after his Eagle FC fight promotion held their US debut in Miami on Friday night.

Nurmagomedov, who officially retired from active competition with an undefeated 29-0 record last year, hasn't felt the unique blend of emotions that comes with being a fighter since his final career bout against Justin Gaethje a year-and-a-half ago but ahead of Eagle FC's first show on US soil, he said that that strange mix of nervousness and excitement all fighters have felt at one time or another had returned.

"Today when I wake up I was nervous like I’m going to fight tonight," he told MMA Junkie in advance of the fight card. 

"I have same feeling today when I wake up. I realized I’m not going to fight, I have a fighting show. It was a very nervous day, but right now I’m happy."

He needn't have worried. 

The card was topped by another iconic figure from Russian MMA and one of the sport's most grizzled veterans, Sergei Kharitonov, who mauled kickboxing legend Tyrone Spong in the headliner. 

It was fitting, perhaps, that Kharitonov's victory came by way of the same oppressive top control and ground and pound for which Khabib had become a master of throughout his run to the summit of the sport.

Elsewhere on the card, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans ended a near four-year retirement to win a decision against Gabriel Checco in what was the American's first win in the cage since he bested Chael Sonnen all the way back in 2013, ending the five-fight skid which hastened his decision to take an extended break from the sport after a knockout loss to Anthony Smith in 2018.

Another UFC veteran and one-time title challenger Ray Borg also impressed, shutting down the experienced Cody Gibson to take the judges' nod on the scorecards.

Afterwards, Borg made a point of thanking Khabib for his involvement.

"Khabib, thank you for me on your show man," he said post-fight. "I couldn't be more happier to fight for you show. I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to come and do what I love."

The Miami card was Khabib and Eagle FC's latest step in expanding the organization outside of Russia, and various surrounding regions, to become the latest big name player on the global MMA scene. 

They have said that fighters from all four corners of the globe will take center stage at upcoming events as they look to grow and add further ballast to a company which has already drawn significant intrigue due to Khabib's involvement.

However, Khabib was cautioned by the man who promoted his rise to the top of the sport, UFC boss Dana White, that his new role wasn't an easy one - a lesson White said Khabib might well "learn the hard way".

But rather that make an enemy of his now competitor, Khabib instead said that he intends to learn from White rather than reject his advice.

"Nothing (about promoting is) easy, honestly," Khabib said.

"He's right, Dana White. I’m going to have meeting next month in Vegas with him. I’m going to talk with him a lot about all this kind of stuff. I’m just beginning. How many years he have experience? He’s the best in the game and it’s a big honor for me to learn from him."