What makes Umar different from Khabib? Can he follow in his footsteps?

Umar Nurmagomedov shares an undefeated record, ferocious grappling ability and incredible work ethic with his cousin Khabib… tipped as a future champion and off to a flying start in the UFC, can he follow in his famous relative’s footsteps?

  • Umar Nurmagomedov won on UFC debut in same way as his cousin Khabib 
  • Both submitted their opponents by rear-naked choke but Umar did it faster
  • There is plenty of hype surrounding the 25-year-old bantamweight prospect
  • He is yet to be beaten but Umar’s fighting style is not a replica of Khabib 

The name Nurmagomedov has struck fear through the lightweight division and now  bantamweights might start quaking in their boots too. 

Khabib’s cousin Umar made his UFC debut on Wednesday and the parallels with MMA’s pound-for-pound king were eerie. 

Nine years apart, both men submitted their opponents by rear-naked choke, a technique that Khabib would go to with lethal effect time and again. 

Umar Nurmagomedov (right) possesses a more versatile skillset than his cousin Khabib 

Umar submitted Sergey Morosov by rear-naked choke in the second round on Wednesday

Khabib was there to corner his cousin and tips the 25-year-old for a bright future 

The now-retired champion forced the tap from Kamal Shalorus in the third round of their fight in 2012. 

Umar, (12-0), went one better and polished off Sergey Morozov in the second. If he’d hoped to go under the radar and bide his time in the UFC, there was never any chance of that. 

Those in the know have spoken highly about Umar’s prospects for some time now and the shared surname with one of the greatest fighters ever means limelight will never be far away. 

He has had to bide his time for a debut. A fight with Nathaniel Wood was scrapped after the death of his uncle, Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap. Then he was supposed to fight on Khabib’s undercard for the Justin Gaethje match-up only to withdraw after catching mumps. 

But it was worth the wait. Morozov is a talented opponent and Umar made light work of him in the end. 

Anyone who watch the fight will have immediately noticed a significant difference in the styles of Umar and Khabib. 

The older cousin is willing to stand and strike for a while but is relentless in chasing takedowns to use his dominant wrestling. 

Umar, on the other hand has a more varied attack on his feet and is arguably more of a multi-dimensional threat, although his grappling will not be up to Khabib’s level. 

Umar spoke of his great relief that he didn’t let any of his family members down 

Both fighters work under Javier Mendez at American Kickboxing Academy and the coach understands better than anyone how Umar is different. 

‘[He’s got] great striking and great kicking that they [fans] can expect. It’s a whole different flair. A whole different flair,’ he told the Sun. 

‘You can expect to see everything from him. But one thing that is going to be different is – Khabib’s boxing has gotten on fairly well.

‘I mean Khabib’s boxing has gotten pretty good. Umar’s kicking is phenomenal. So you can expect to see more kicking [from him]. He’s a phenomenal kicker. He’s great on the ground, he’s got good boxing, but he’s a phenomenal kicker.

‘So that’s one of the things you’ll notice a difference in between him and Khabib. Umar can kick.’

His cousins: Usman (left), Khabib (second from left) and Abubakar (right) all compete 

The powerful kicking game is one of his strengths according to coach Javier Mendez

After Wednesday’s win Umar said: ‘For me, kicking is just natural, I have always used both my feet and hands in a fight and it doesn’t make me tired. 

‘I am sure I would have been fresh had it gone to a third round. He is a very strong guy, stronger than me to be honest.’  

Of course, growing up in a household led by the late Abdulmanap, a pioneer wrestling coach, means Umar’s ground game is also at an elite level, as he showed with the clean finish of Morosov. 

He cut his teeth as a youngster training with Khabib, Usman (undefeated Bellator fighter) and Abubakar (UFC welterweight). Wherever you stand in the nature vs nurture argument, the DNA and training environment are as good as it gets. 

Nobody could survive that fighting education without an extreme competitive desire and work ethic demanded from Abdulmanap.  

Khabib had the luxury of coming into the UFC without a massive amount of pressure on his shoulders. 

Khabib defeated Kamal Shalorus (bottom) in the third round of his debut and Umar went one better in his, executing a second-round finish on Fight Island 

But for a pre-lim fight there was plenty of attention on Umar so early in his career. After the win on Wednesday, he said: ‘It is a big load off my shoulders. I didn’t want to let anybody down. Neither my brother nor father or anyone in the family and I feel relieved now, I didn’t let them down.’

He won’t have long to rest and revealed Dana White is planning another fight for him in March. 

Umar cares little about who he takes on but someone in the top 15 could already be a possibility and at least a couple more fights before he is ready for the likes of Jose Aldo, Cody Garbrandt and ultimately champion Petr Yan. 

He has all the tools available to him and although the real extent of his talent will become clear in the fights to come, to one day see another Nurmadomedov with a championship belt would not be a surprise.  

It is still very early for him in the UFC but with Khabib in his corner, an incredible foundation across multiple MMA disciplines and the same iron-clad mindset as his cousin, the sky is the limit for Umar.

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