For Khabib Nurmagomedov, the opportunity to go out on top someday could prove irresistible.
With a win over Justin Gaethje this Saturday at UFC 254, Nurmagomedov would not only record his third straight lightweight title defense, he’d improve his unblemished pro record to 29-0. He’s beaten a dozen UFC opponents, with dominant victories against elite fighters like Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, and Rafael dos Anjos.
It’s rare for any combat sports athlete to go their entire career without a loss, but the 32-year-old Nurmagomedov plans to do just that and follow in the footsteps of legendary boxers like Rocky Marciano and McGregor nemesis Floyd Mayweather. Now it’s just a matter of finding the magic number that will be enough for Nurmagomedov to lay down his gloves for good.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Nurmagomedov told Yahoo! Sports (transcript via The Body Lock). “30-0 is going to be great. It’s looking good, it sounds good.
“30-0, okay. It’s going to be a great record, this is like Mayweather in MMA. We’ll see, I’m very close to it.”
Beyond the big question mark of how his fight with Gaethje will go, Nurmagomedov’s plan to go at least 30-0 is dependent on what’s next for him following another win. “The Eagle” will have seemingly cleared out his division, though several potential matchups continue to be proposed. McGregor has long campaigned for a rematch after losing to Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, a perpetually snake-bitten matchup with Tony Ferguson remains a possibility despite losing some of its cache with Gaethje having stopped Ferguson’s lengthy win streak, and both Nurmagomedov and UFC legend Georges St-Pierre have expressed a mutual interest in a legacy battle should “GSP” ever decide to compete again.
Nurmagomedov also recently said that UFC President Dana White has “something special” in the works for him, though neither man has gone into detail as to what that might be and Nurmagomedov expressly asked White to wait until after his fight with Gaethje to move forward with discussions.
Even if opponent No. 30 doesn’t turn out to be an earth-shattering name, Nurmagomedov is already confident that a win against Gaethje further cements his reputation among the all-time greats.
“Who knows?” Nurmagomedov said. “Okay, I finish Justin Gaethje, I finish one more guy, I dominate him—I think my name is going to be always in history,” Nurmagomedov said. “I think already my name is going to be in history because two years ago what happened [against McGregor] is never going to be forgotten. Even after 50 years, people are going to watch this fight and be impressed. This is like when Muhammad Ali fought [Joe] Frazier in Manila. People never forget this fight.
“I’m already in history but I need legacy. For legacy, Justin Gaethje is a great opponent right now.”