Islam Makhachev is one of the rising stars of the UFC lightweight division. He is currently on a nine-fight winning streak and has been dominating his opponents with his grappling skills and striking abilities. Many fans and experts have compared him to his friend and mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who retired as the undefeated champion of the same division. But what is the relationship between Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov? Are they brothers, cousins, or something else? Here is the truth behind their friendship.
Childhood Friends from Dagestan
Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov are not related by blood, but they have been friends since childhood. They both hail from the Republic of Dagestan, a mountainous region in southern Russia that is known for producing some of the best wrestlers and fighters in the world. Islam and Khabib grew up in the same city, Makhachkala, and attended the same school. They also trained together in various martial arts, such as judo, sambo, and wrestling, under the guidance of Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who was a respected coach and mentor for many young fighters.
Islam and Khabib often competed in local and national tournaments, sometimes even facing each other in friendly matches. They developed a strong bond of brotherhood and loyalty, supporting each other in their careers and personal lives. Islam once said in an interview with ESPN:
“We spar [our] whole life and we never go easy. All the time we go hard. That’s why I’ve been improving when I work with Khabib.”
Teammates at American Kickboxing Academy
Islam Makhachev made his professional MMA debut in 2010, while Khabib Nurmagomedov had already been fighting since 2008. Both fighters signed with the UFC in 2012, and soon moved to the United States to train at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California. AKA is one of the most renowned MMA gyms in the world, home to many champions and contenders, such as Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold, and Jon Fitch.
At AKA, Islam and Khabib continued to train together under the supervision of head coach Javier Mendez, who praised their skills and work ethic. Mendez also revealed that Islam was one of the few fighters who could challenge Khabib in sparring sessions. He said:
“People need to understand this guy is a machine. Outside of him getting caught with a good shot, I don’t see anybody taking this guy and outworking him in any area. Anything can happen with these little gloves … but I don’t see anybody outpointing him. I really don’t. And I’m not joking.”
Islam and Khabib also became close friends with other AKA fighters, such as Cormier, who often referred to Islam as “Champion” and predicted that he would be the next big thing in the lightweight division.
Mutual Respect and Support
Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov have always shown mutual respect and support for each other, both inside and outside the octagon. They have never fought against each other in the UFC, despite being in the same weight class. Islam once said that he deliberately stayed at 155 pounds because he did not want to face Khabib, who was his friend and idol.
Islam has also been present for most of Khabib’s fights, either as a cornerman or a spectator. He has witnessed Khabib’s rise to stardom, his dominant performances against top opponents, such as Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje, and his emotional retirement after his 29th win in 2020.
Khabib has also been supportive of Islam’s career, often giving him advice, encouragement, and praise. He has stated that Islam is one of the best fighters in the world, pound for pound, and that he would take his place as the champion of the lightweight division. He has also taken on the role of a coach for Islam after his retirement, helping him prepare for his fights and giving him instructions from his corner.
Islam has expressed his gratitude and admiration for Khabib on several occasions. He said:
“I wanna be like Khabib, you know. He is great man, you know. He’s a champion, he have lot of money now, lot of everything, but he’s still humble guy.”
Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov are not related by blood, but they share a bond that is stronger than family. They are childhood friends, teammates, and brothers in arms, who have been through many ups and downs together. They have inspired and motivated each other to become better fighters and better people. They are the pride of Dagestan, and the future of MMA.