Khabib Nurmagomedov's childhood friend says Russian wrestling is way more beautiful than the American style

Professional Fighters LeagueMagomed Magomedkerimov.
  • Magomed Magomedkerimov, a childhood friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov, is an expert fighter in his own right.
  • Like Nurmagomedov, Magomedkerimov is a Dagestani wrestler with a distinctive fighting style.
  • And for Magomedkerimov, the Dagestani wrestling style is more beautiful than the physical collegiate wrestling style seen in the US.
  • Magomedkerimov says men in his area learn fight techniques from a young age so that they do not get bullied on the streets of Makhachkala.
  • The 29-year-old fights Chris Curtis in the Professional Fighters League playoffs on October 11 in Las Vegas, and hopes to advance to the Championship finals so he can fight for $US1 million on December 31.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Magomed Magomedkerimov says Russian wrestling is way more beautiful than American because it is less physical and more technical.

Magomedkerimov is from the same region of Russia, Makhachkala, as Khabib Nurmagomedov. The famous UFC lightweight champion is 28 fights into his professional career, unbeaten, and on a high, having beaten Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in the last 12 months.

Magomedkerimov knows Nurmagomedov well having grown up with him in Dagestan. Magomedkerimov told Business Insider they met as children at a wrestling club, and it is from there where a friendship blossomed.

Like Nurmagomedov, Magomedkerimov is a feared submission specialist.

The 29-year-old, an accomplished athlete in the Professional Fighters League, is on a nine-fight winning run and has already won the PFL championship once when he beat Ray Cooper III by guillotine choke on December 31, 2018.

Magomedkerimov intends to fight for another $US1 million payday but PFL playoffs opponent Chris Curtis stands in his way on October 11 in Las Vegas.

Before the Curtis bout, Magomedkerimov told Business Insider about his relationship with Nurmagomedov and the differences between collegiate wrestling in the US and Russian wrestling in his homeland.

“Khabib is my childhood friend,” Magomedkerimov told us. “We grew up together in the same village, and we went to the same wrestling gym. The first time I ever met Khabib we were a child, in elementary school, and met through wrestling.”

Dagestani wrestling ‘more beautiful’ than the American style

Mixed martial arts has long been seen as a potential career path for collegiate wrestlers in America, but Magomedkerimov sees the Russian wrestling as the superior style. The reason many Dagestani men are good at it, he told us, is because they learned the sport as children so they could defend themselves on the street.

“The reason Dagestan has so many champions is everybody fights, from childhood to going to some fighting club, wrestling, boxing … you can get bullied on the streets,” he said. “Every kid tries to go to the gym, train, and learn how to fight.

“The difference between American style and Dagestani wrestling is that in America, they try to train more physical, hard training. In Dagestan, they train more on technique and skills. It is a more beautiful style of wrestling.”

Read more: Why the next star of women’s MMA won’t suffer the same cataclysmic downfall as her old training partner, Ronda Rousey

The Dagestani style, according to the former UFC heavyweight champion and current PFL colour analyst Randy Couture, is distinctive from other regions. “I think all of us in our particular regions have a flavour, coming from a specific background, and starting from a young age,” Couture told Business Insider.

Magomed MagomedkerimovProfessional Fighters LeagueMagomedkerimov has already wrestled, and beaten, Chris Curtis.

“Certainly I think the Dagestanis are using the old Soviet system, identifying these kids, literally 3, 4, and 5 years old, then steering them into these sports where they’re getting notoriety and developing a ton of skills.

“That’s why it’s such a rich area for combative sports; it’s just their culture, something they’re proud of and should be proud of as they’re amazing competitors.

“Magomed is no different,” Couture said. “He might be a bit better striker in his stand-up game than some of these guys, but he’s got slick ground game and good submissions, too. It makes him formidable.”

When he gets his hands on people he has slick, interesting submission skills that guys have difficulty dealing with.

The Nurmagomedov effect has certainly helped, similar to how Conor McGregor has made fight promotions and combat sports fans look at Ireland, curious at who the next top fighter from Dublin could be.

Read more: The 22-year-old Irish fighter being compared to Conor McGregor could actually be a greater example of ‘modern’ MMA, expert says

“It shines a light on that region of the world and why there’s so many tough guys coming out that area,” Couture said. “Conor and his approach to the sport shines the light on Irish fighters coming up and making their own mark on the sport.”

As for what makes Magomedkerimov so good as a PFL welterweight, Couture said: “He has a unique ability to maintain distance. He’s unflappable.

“You can’t get him out of his gameplan where he wants to have a fight, and that makes him tough to deal with. Guys have to fight where he wants to be, that’s difficult.

“He’s shown a ton of great skills in standing and measuring guys to control distance. And when he closes and gets his hands on people, he has slick, interesting submission skills that guys have difficulty dealing with.”

Magomedkerimov fights Curtis on Friday, an athlete he has beaten once already this season. “Chris Curtis is a great athlete, fun to talk to, fun to watch fight,” Couture told us.

Couture also said that even though Magomedkerimov has one win over Curtis in 2019, it is something that could go against him in the second fight. “The onus is always on the guy who won the first fight, what’s he going to change,” Couture said.

“Chris wants a different outcome and wants to fight differently. It’s up to Magomed to find out what those adjustments are going to be. It makes it more competitive. Nobody will blow through Curtis.”

Magomedkerimov thinks differently, though. “I don’t think he will make adjustments or improve skills because he’s already 32 years old, and too old to make improvements.”

Magomedkerimov told us he’s prepared for a tough fight but remains determined to advance to the final PFL Championships and win $US1 million.

“I feel great,” he said, adding that he won’t spend the money frivolously like other millionaire fighters. “I’d invest the money in business, real estate, and donate to help people in need.”

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