To say Khabib Nurmagomedov faced serious adversity leading up to his fight with Justin Gaethje would be an understatement.

We’ve heard before from his coach, Javier Mendez of American Kickboxing Academy, about Nurmagomedov’s pre-fight obstacles, including a hospital stay. Now, in an interview with ACA fighter Magomed Ismailov, Nurmagomedov has shared details of having to overcome the mumps and a broken thumb just weeks out from UFC 254.

First, the mumps: Nurmagomedov said he fell ill on Sept. 9, one day before he was scheduled to fly out to Abu Dhabi for the fight on Oct. 24.

His face swelled up, and this is what he looked like: 

(Screengrab via YouTube)

“I started feeling worse on the plane and when we arrive, I get a high fever,” Khabib said in Russian, via English subtitles. “It was getting really bad and after a while, I was taken to the hospital, and I had intensive care for five days. It was really bad.”

As a result, Nurmagomedov said he didn’t start his training camp until Sept. 24.

“But after 10 days, I broke my thumb,” he said. “I broke my thumb on October 7.”

Nurmagomedov said he “wanted to cancel the fight,” but he and his team ultimately decided to push forward.

“I was having so much (to deal with) with this fight, the disease and fractures,” he said. “At the end of the day, we decided to keep the fight on.”

The obstacles turned out not to hinder his performance, as Nurmagomedov looked impressive before submitting Gaethje in the second round to retain his lightweight title. Given what he’d endured and the talking he did with Gaethje during the fight, Nurmagomedov believes the victory was mental more than anything.

“You may not see this, but I felt it: He gave up,” Nurmagomedov said of Gaethje. “I mean, his will was broken. He gave up mentally. I don’t think that I won this fight physically, but rather mentally.”

Hearing stuff like this is why we wish Khabib hadn’t announced his retirement after the win. Because, as Mendez has said, he still has more to give. Whether Khabib is truly finished or will try for a perfect 30-0 record remains to be seen, as he still remains the UFC lightweight champion.

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