Despite being retired from MMA as a fighter, former UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov has carried on as a coach.
Mentoring teammates like Islam Makhachev, “The Eagle” has blossomed in his new role — and is open to serving as coach on a future season of The Ultimate Fighter against old rival Tony Ferguson.
It’s a suggestion Ferguson made earlier this week. “I would love be able to coach against him in The Ultimate Fighter. How about that, for one? Best man wins on the team. I guarantee my coaching is a lot better than yours, Khabib,” Ferguson said on The MMA Hour.
The idea has Khabib’s interest.
“I like this idea, honestly,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Wednesday. “I like this idea. We can do some stuff. Because right now, it’s like, not too many big stars in UFC right now. Myself, I’m finished. Jon Jones is not there. Henry Cejudo is not there. Daniel Cormier is not there. Of course, I don’t like this guy, but he has a big name. Conor is not there. A lot of people are not there. Adesanya, Volkanovski, of course Ngannou, and my brother pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman. There are only a few people, you know? If me and Tony are going to be ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ coaches, I think they can create some good content, if they’re interested.”
Would the UFC be interested without being able to market a coach’s fight at the end of the season? That remains to be seen. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were booked opposite one another five times during their UFC careers. The most recent attempt to promote a fight between the two came at UFC 249, early in the coronavirus pandemic. Nurmagomedov was forced off the card due to travel restrictions, and replaced by Justin Gaethje, who would batter Ferguson for the better part of five rounds.
Nurmagomedov retired after defeating Gaethje in October 2020, finishing his career a perfect 29-0. The loss of his father to COVID-19 factored heavily in the fighter hanging up the gloves.