UFC legend Nurmagomedov ‘did not stand out’ as a youth, MMA great reveals as he prepares to be cornered by him in farewell fight

Ahead of his farewell fight at a Moscow event run by Khabib Nurmagomedov, a revered MMA star has spoken about growing up with the ex-UFC champ and his father, legendary coach Abdulmanap.

When he faces Nariman Abbaso at Eagle Fighting Championship 40 on Friday night, Shamil Zavurov will be aiming for his 41st and final win of a 48-bout career that began until the tutelage of Abdulmanap, who tragically died from complications relating to Covid-19 last year.

The card, which has been organized by the ex-lightweight title holder's promotion, will feature the former M-1 Global World welterweight champion as a co-headliner with Nurmagomedov in his corner.

Nurmagomedov senior is being honored by the event. "I never thought that I would end my career at the tournament in memory of Abdulmanap," Zavurov told Tribuna, reflecting on the untimely passing of the figure responsible for producing a stable of sensational fighters from the base he created in Dagestan.

"We always thought that he would always be there. Of course, it's sad on the one hand. On the other hand, I want to pay tribute to the memory that he devoted all his life to sports and to us – not only coaching us, but also bringing us up."

Abdulmanap was there for "my very first steps in sports," Zavurov said, sharing a house with the oracle.

"The main thing for him was discipline. I couldn’t find a reason for skipping a workout, I didn’t know how to excuse myself. He invested in us and we are trying to do the same for another generation."

When he approached Abdulmanap once in the village of Kirovaul, Zavurov recalls his mentor asking future great Nurmagomedov to show him a technique and then promising to teach him how to do it.

"Khabib is the greatest," he said, discussing the man who has become even more of an influential figure in training camps and behind the scenes since his own retirement from the UFC in October.

"It's not about victories, but about example and lifestyle. What was little Khabib like? Stubborn... he asked a lot of questions constantly.

"I remember the elder uncle always told him: this is the last question, don't ask any more. Khabib saw something, and that's it: why? Why? Everything was always interesting."

As most Nurmagomedov fans will be unsurprised to hear, the young 'Eagle' was obsessed with football.

"I would not say that Khabib stood out in childhood," reminisced Zavurov. "On the contrary: he was weaker.

"Since childhood, [cousin and UFC fighter] Abubakar physically stood out. When Abdulmanap gave some exercises – horizontal bar or parallel bars – Abubakar was always better. Khabib thought more with his head, he could get ahead with his mind.

"Many people say he beat the wrong people. But you don't have to beat everyone to become the greatest.

"Your lifestyle should also match. As a fighter, as a person, the example you set next. This whole makes you the greatest. You can beat everyone, but setting a bad example won't make you the greatest."

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