Khabib explains why he wasn’t in Islam Makhachev’s corner at UFC 294

Khabib Nurmagomedov has clarified why he missed childhood friend and UFC protege Islam Makhachev’s stunning victory over Alexander Volkanovski.

The former UFC champion, who finished his career with an unbeaten 29-0 record, said it was not unusual for him to not be in the corner in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.

Nurmagomedov became Makhachev’s coach following his retirement in 2020, but the ‘Eagle’ announced earlier this year that he had taken a step back from the UFC.

Makhachev stunned Volkanovski with a first-round knockout at UFC 294, retaining the lightweight title in their rematch.

In February, Makhachev outpointed Volkanovski – who holds the featherweight belt – in the latter’s native Australia, in a competitive clash that left many fans desiring a rematch.

Nurmagomedov congratulated Makhachev on his victory before responding to fans who had questioned his absence from ringside.

“If you guys ask me where have I been? Why wasn’t I in the corner, I already answered this question,” he posted on Instagram.

“I don’t go to fights, I don’t go to the corner and I completely left everything related to MMA. I ask you to accept my decision the same way as my brothers, friends and sparring partners did. What our team achieved will forever be in the history of MMA.”

Makhachev had already addressed the fact that Nurmagomedov would not be in his corner before UFC 294, telling reporters that he understood and supported his mentor’s decision.

“Here is my explanation: We have a very big team,” Makhachev said. “What if Khabib is there for one of us? We’re all equal.

“No matter if somebody’s a champion and the other guy is still on his way up, we all support each other. If he is there for my fight, he will need to be there for every single one from our team to not let anyone feel abandoned.

“He has already said that he will not attend the fights and he will not corner anyone. And we all support him in this decision.”

Midway through the first round of the main event, southpaw Makhachev skimmed his left shin off Volkanovski’s head, wobbling and dropping the featherweight king. Makhachev, 31, followed up with a fierce flurry of hammer fists to the grounded Aussie, whose brow split open amid the onslaught.

Referee Marc Goddard stepped in, confirming an emphatic victory and title defence for Makhachev, the mentee and childhood friend of UFC lightweight great Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The result extended Makhachev’s win streak to 13 fights, dating back to 2015, when he suffered the sole loss of his professional career. Meanwhile, Volkanovski was beaten for the third time as a pro, though he remains undefeated at his preferred weight of 145lbs.