Khabib reveals career path if he’d been born in England
Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the most successful fighters in the history of mixed martial arts, but if fate had conspired in a different direction he claims he may well have lifted a Premier League trophy rather than a UFC world title.
The unbeaten Russian star recently completed a UK speaking tour in order to help raise much-needed funds for the flood crisis in Pakistan, during which he spoke of his childhood and his rise to prominence to become an iconic figure within combat sports.
But Khabib – who has long displayed his fandom for football – made one claim which may surprise some: had he not been born in Dagestan, where a love of wrestling was infused into him at an early age, he could easily have seen himself pursuing an entirely different sporting career.
“There are a lot of different people here [in London]. I think there are fans of Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester,” said Khabib at the ExCeL London convention center on Sunday.
“I just love the English Premier League, I really love this.”
The 29-0 star, who competed in the most watched UFC fight in the history of the sport against Irish star Conor McGregor, also made a claim which may come as a surprise to his legions of fans: MMA comes behind football in his list of interests.
“I like football, football is much better than MMA, this is what I say always," Khabib added.
"And people ask me: 'Why did you become an MMA fighter then?' Honestly, it was very accidentally.
“I was just born and grew up in Dagestan... If I grew up in England, I'm sure I can become a football player. I love football.”
Khabib, 33, has long been associated with 'the beautiful game'.
He has been pictured with several of the sport's luminaries such as Cristiano Ronaldo, whom he counts as a personal friend, as well as the legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
He is also a noted supporter of several football teams, such as Real Madrid, Turkish giants Galatasaray, as well as the now defunct FC Anzhi Makhachkala in the Dagestani capital.
But if Khabib's claims about potentially becoming a professional footballer have been taken with a pinch of salt by some, consider this: following his retirement from mixed martial arts soon after he defended his crown against American standout Justin Gaethje, he was offered a deal to sign for Russian lower league outfit FC Legion Dynamo Makhachkala.
And if Khabib's reflection on his early moves into the sport are correct, things might have been entirely different had he been born in Doncaster rather than Dagestan.