Khabib working to make MMA an Olympic sport


Khabib Nurmagomedov plans on keeping busy in retirement. And one of his planned tasks? Helping to get mixed martial arts into the Olympics.

The current UFC lightweight champion, who announced his retirement in October, said at a press conference Tuesday in Uzbekistan that he is already working behind the scenes in an attempt to make MMA an Olympic sport. Nurmagomedov said he believes the combat sport has “big chances” to be in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“The inclusion of MMA in the Olympics is one of my biggest tasks for the next couple of years,” Nurmagomedov said in Russian. “We’re already working in this direction.”

Nurmagomedov said he’s in the process of setting up a meeting with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

A native of Dagestan, Russia, he is one of the best MMA fighters ever and one of the most high-profile Muslim athletes in the world. He is the first MMA fighter at his level to speak about being part of the effort to get MMA into the Olympics. Nurmagomedov said he knows alterations would have to be made in the rules for the sport to be recognized.

“In the Olympics, with boxing, I think they changed the gloves. They don’t want there to be a lot of blood,” Nurmagomedov said. “But in terms of sponsorships, TV ratings, viewership, the MMA has it, and if it gets in the Olympics, it will be on par with track and field and soccer in terms of interest. This is my personal opinion. And we’re already working in that direction.”

Nurmagomedov, 32, said at two news conferences this week — one in Uzbekistan and one in Russia — that he still has no plans to return to the UFC. But it’s clear his post-competition life will still be in the world of MMA.

In addition to his Olympic efforts, Nurmagomedov announced this week that he has bought Russian MMA promotion Gorilla Fighting Championship and rebranding it as Eagle Fighting Championship after his “Eagle” nickname. Nurmagomedov said he plans on holding EFC shows next year in places like Russian, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi. Like the idea to get MMA into the Olympics, Nurmagomedov’s goal is to help the sport grow internationally.

“There is no secret that all fighters want to go to UFC,” Nurmagomedov said. “Many promotions deny this and want that the fighters stay with them to complete against UFC. I don’t want that at all. I want EFC to play the role of a springboard to this global arena.”

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