Khabib Nurmagomedov retires as MMA coach; status for Islam Makhachev title fight up in the air

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 22: Khabib Nurmagomedov reacts after his teammate Islam Makhachev of Russia wins the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Khabib Nurmagomedov, who coached Islam Makhachev to the UFC lightweight title he once held, shared a post via Instagram on Saturday indicating that he's "leaving the MMA industry." (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Khabib Nurmagomedov retired early as a fighter, seemingly with a number of significant fights left in him. Now, it appears he’s doing the same as a coach.

Nurmagomedov shared an Instagram post in Russian that indicated he’s leaving the sport. Javier Mendez, the coach at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, confirmed to Yahoo Sports Nurmagomedov's plans to retire. Mendez coached Nurmagomedov to the UFC lightweight title and then led Islam Makhachev to the belt coaching alongside Nurmagomedov.

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Mendez said Nurmagomedov, who has two boys and a girl, has been away from his family a great deal. Mendez told Yahoo Sports that Nurmagomedov simply wants to spend time with his his family.

“He just doesn’t want to miss being a father,” Mendez told Yahoo Sports. “He talked to me about three weeks ago and told me of his plan and said he planned to talk to the team and inform them of his decision. He’s doing this for the right reasons. He’s a family man and he simply wants to spend more time with his family.

Nurmagomedov retired following his UFC 254 victory over Justin Gaethje in 2020, saying his mother asked him not to fight any more. Now, he’s walking away, at least for the time being, from his spot as one of the sport’s most promising coaches for similar reasons.

Will Khabib be in Islam Makachev's corner at UFC 284?

Mendez said he’s not certain if Nurmagomedov will work lightweight champion Makhachev’s corner when Makhachev defends his belt on Feb. 11 at UFC 284 against featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski.

Makhachev has been training in Dagestan with Nurmagomedov for the Volkanovski fight. Mendez said he won’t see Makhachev until Jan. 20 when he flies to Perth, Australia.

Nurmagomedov shared a post via his Instagram story from the account za.khabiba which translated from Russian read, “Khabib is leaving the MMA industry. It’s about coaching and everything else related to MMA. The reason is Khabib’s desire to devote more time to his family.”

If Nurmagomedov leaves the sport for good, it would be a significant loss given his ability to teach the sport and communicate with fighters. He has long had a great eye for the sport and was able to break down fights like few others.

He also grappled regularly with his fighters and Mendez said that helped all of them improve greatly.

“Khabib learned so much from his father [Abdulmanap, who died in 2020] and from me and some of the other great coaches he worked with, and his guys have learned so much from him,” Mendez said. “He instilled the things he learned from his father in the new generation and you can see the impact.

“Is he going to be missed? Absolutely. Will it negatively affect the team? That remains to be seen, but given what a great job he’s done coaching his cousins and the others on the team, I think they’re ready to move forward and continue his legacy.”