In Saturday’s pay-per-view headliner, Makhachev followed in his coach and mentor’s footsteps by ascending to the top of the 155-pound mountain on MMA’s biggest stage. To do so, the rising Russian forced Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist and former champion Charles Oliveira to submit.
The finish, which came via arm-triangle choke in the second round, followed a strong opening frame from Makhachev. Things didn’t improve for Oliveira following some time in his corner, with a knockdown quickly leading to a fatal grappling exchange for “Do Bronx.”
With the result, Makhachev completed a plan that was not only laid out for him by the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, but by his son, Khabib. Since his retirement from MMA, “The Eagle” has continued to train the next generation of Dagestani phenoms.
And leading that charge is Makhachev, whom Khabib consistently touted as championship material. That confidence manifested itself pre-UFC 280, with the former titleholder consistently suggesting that his man would “roll over” Oliveira.
And although that confidence turned out to be well placed, with Makhachev delivering the kind of dominant display that those in his camp had predicted, that doesn’t mean the headliner was easy viewing in the Russian’s corner…
Khabib: ‘I Was Very Nervous During Makhachev/Oliveira’
Ahead of the Abu Dhabi-held main event, Makhachev spoke about the presence of his friend and mentor in the corner during his fights. The now-lightweight king suggested that Khabib becomes more nervous than he even did for his own appearances in the Octagon, which he theorized is down to the personal connection he has with his compatriots.
Now, the man himself has confirmed that Makhachev was right with his assessment. During an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, Khabib was asked how nervous he was when Makhachev went toe-to-toe with Oliveira inside the cage.
After confirming that he was incredibly tense during the main event, Khabib shared the same sentiment as Makhachev in regards to the reasoning. For “The Eagle,” it’s more than just watching his fighters compete, it’s watching his brothers engage in a sport that is always so unpredictable.
“You want an honest answer? Very nervous,” Khabib said. “Because brother, I watch all his life, last 20 years, the way how he works so hard; amateur career, professional career. And now, it’s almost time. This is a very hard spot, anytime, anything can happen. Look at Kamaru Usman. He was winning all five rounds, boom, one time, finish, he lose his belt.
“Same thing (with Makhachev). Anytime, anything can happen. Charles is so good, he is high-level fighter. Of course, I was very nervous,” Khabib continued. “Because I love this guy, we grew up together. He was my father’s favorite student.”
Thankfully for Khabib, there was to be no come-from-behind finish for Oliveira, who vowed to regain the belt down the line following his first setback in 11 fights.
For Makhachev, the next step in his plan to cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time will seemingly need to go through pound-for-pound kingpin Alexander Volkanovski, who looks set to have his wish for a lightweight title challenge granted in Australia next year.
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