Dana White couldn’t believe what he’d seen when he watched Khabib Nurmagomedov fight in the octagon for the first time.
The Eagle has become one of the UFC’s biggest draws during his UFC lightweight title reign and although he has walked away from the sport with a 29-0 record, he has certainly left a legacy.
In 2012, though, Khabib was a fresh-faced kid entering the UFC after going 16-0 in Ukraine and his native Russia.
White’s first meeting with his future star was recorded and he was clearly impressed with his win over Kamal Shalorus.
“Unbelievable,” White started. “This kid’s impressive. Tough, tough kid, man!”
Since then he has fought and beaten, among many others, Rafael Dos Anjos, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor to remain undefeated.
Being unbeaten is one thing, but Nurmagomedov has a nice spread of eight knockouts, 11 submission victories and 10 decisions in his storied career.
It seems certain he will vacate the title but fight fans – and importantly, UFC president White – believe the 32-year-old still has plenty more to give.
He never did get to fight in Russia for the UFC despite the company putting on three cards there.
White and Khabib developed a strong relationship through the years and the match-maker has tried valiantly to convince his lightweight champion to make a return despite deciding to hang up his gloves after UFC 254.
There was talk he would continue to defend his belt if he saw something from McGregor and Poirier and while new boy Michael Chandler is also desperate to test himself against Khabib, he has insisted he will not be coming back.
White has met him numerous times and tried to coax him out of retirement when the talked ahead of UFC 257 in January but it seems even a super fight against Georges St-Pierre can’t tempt him.
“When you say Georges St-Pierre, that name really motivates me,” Khabib said in a recent interview.
“GSP really makes me excited and so on but it’s all over, brother. He’s 40 years old. Let’s just leave it. For sure we like him as a human being. He is the legend. He is the decent representation of mixed martial arts.
“Let it be like this, there’s GSP and Khabib.”