Morning Report: Ali Abdelaziz says Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father is ‘improving’

Sport

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, father and coach of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, was hospitalized last month with a serious heart condition. According to reports, Abdulmanap underwent surgery on his heart due to complications from a previous ailment, triggered by the coronavirus. However, there appears to finally be good news on the horizon: according to Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, though the situation remains serious, the elder Nurmagomedov is currently in a hospital in Moscow and is improving.

“Khabib is very strong, his family is very strong and his father is very strong,” Abdelaziz told ESPN. “He’s improving. He opened his eyes, responding a little bit — good sign. Allah is in control. We have faith he will be better, but at the end of the day, it’s completely up to his health whether it progresses or not. But he’s progressing, and we’re very happy about this.”

Aside from being Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov is a respected sportsman in Russia and has trained many of the top fighters coming out of Dagestan. When the news was first announced that Abdulmanap had fallen ill, even Khabib’s most bitter rival, Conor McGregor, sent a message of support.

But despite the tragedy, for the UFC, the show must go on. UFC President Dana White has said the UFC is targeting a title unification bout between Khabib and interim champion Justin Gaethje for September, and Abdelaziz – who manages both fighters – says Khabib is planing to do just that.

“I think Khabib’s father being sick has motivated him more,” Abdelaziz said. “He’s training every day, two times a day. He’s in camp already. Me and him were talking and I said, ‘Hey, get your mind off, do what you need to do.’ He’s always training. He’s a true mixed martial artist. Same with Gaethje. They are both great guys and they want to fight. It’s a dream fight. It’s a real king versus king fight.”

Gaethje put himself in line for a title fight by stopping Tony Ferguson for the interim belt at UFC 249. In the aftermath, perhaps thinking Nurmagomedov would not be ready to fight given his father’s condition, Conor McGregor called for a fight with Gaethje. Gaethje is passing on that proposal but that doesn’t mean McGregor is out of the conversation. Dana White has repeatedly said that McGregor will get the next title shot. However, even considering McGregor’s considerate post about Abdulmanap, Abdelaziz says that if Khabib retains his title, Conor is up a creek without a paddle.

“If Justin wins, Justin might fight him. If Khabib wins, he better go down to 145 (pounds) because his ass is not getting a title at 170 or 155. . . For Khabib to fight Conor again — Khabib has ‘fck you money.’ He doesn’t need another $20 to $30 million. I can’t convince him to fight Conor. Honestly, right now, I don’t think Khabib will give Conor a chance. He’s different, man. It’s principle first, then after that, it becomes money. This guy (McGregor) talked about his father, mother, wife — you want to give this piece of sht another opportunity to do that again? Who would?”