Islam Makhachev is living through his very first ‘moment’ with his fanbase growing following an impressive victory over Charles Oliveira.
Makhachev managed to submit Oliveira after dazing him with a strike and following him down to the ground, quickly passing his guard and putting on a modified arm triangle. At which point he was able to quickly get the tap.
But much like with Nurmagomedov there was quite a learning curve to handle – and it’s especially interesting to see his striking visibly improved.
An old video of two longtime friends training and sparring recently surfaced providing more insight into their potential.
We can see Khabib having more initiative in the striking exchanges at first. The two are wearing big boxing gloves for the spar. The training session is supervised by Khabib’s father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov who can be seen observing in the background.
Makhachev grabs onto a single leg fast. He appears to get further than many others who tried grappling Khabib. But Khabib still manages to recover and force a sprawl landing on top of Makhachev’s shoulder with his hip.
The video cuts to a grappling exchange. We can see Makhachev is trying to set up an armbar or a triangle from the way his legs are dangling up. Nurmagomedov is applying pressure.
Here we can see shared of Abdulmanap’s admiration for Georges St Pierre as Khabib balances a low base over Makhachev and layers on ground and pound from the top.
Their old training grounds in Dagestan famously didn’t have a cage meaning that the first time Makhachev sparred in his actual environment was during his first visit to AKA. As luck would have it, Makhachev was assigned to spar a young up and comer – the now Welterweight champion of the UFC Leon Edwards.
While it’s easy to wax poetic about a deceased person it’s clear that Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov had a mind for the art – and was even called the greatest MMA coach alive by Tristar’s Firas Zahabi.
This is an interesting opinion because Firas Zahabi was coaching Abdulmanap’s favorite – Georges St-Pierre.
“He’s the greatest trainer of all time. He’s the greatest trainer of all time. Khabib is the greatest light heavyweight of all time. And now, look, you have another pound for pound. Great.”
“That’s been underestimated. That’s not been giving it to the guys who could’ve had this title fight. And one or two years ago, he could have been a world champion two years ago.”
“Why? They want to give him a title fight. That’s probably logistics complicated. So many other guys you know I had in line that have been have more followers that have more big fights, whatever it may be.”
It’s also interesting because of Zahabi’s ties with John Danaher who likely aspires to achieve that status as well after all the success he’s had in pro grappling.