Home Features The Terrifying But Undeniable Similarities Between Conor McGregor & Khabib Nurmagomedov

The Terrifying But Undeniable Similarities Between Conor McGregor & Khabib Nurmagomedov

Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov may not strike you as very similar on paper, but I believe that each man’s destiny has set them up for a meeting in which only one fighter’s self-belief will be proven correct.

Conor McGregor’s rise to the top of the MMA game has been nothing short of extraordinary. His talents inside the octagon are, of course, truly something to behold and the way in which he has dispatched all but two of his UFC opponents by way of knockout has certainly proved to those who watch him that he is indeed as special as he says.

The flawless manner in which he defeated the veteran Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 really did hammer home the fact that we are bearing witness to a truly great mixed martial artist, and though there are those who still feel the need to detract from what he has done, his accomplishments in the sport of MMA just cannot be denied at this stage.

But if you push his obvious skill as a fighter to one side, there’s something else about this Irishman that singles him out from the pack. If you strip away the exuberant and brash personality and peel back the mind-games and the trash-talking, what lies beneath is something that is completely undeniable, love him or hate him.

Conor McGregor’s self-belief is his most tremendous weapon.

The video above isn’t anything new. If you love the sport you’ll no doubt be aware of McGregor’s ability to voice his predictions for his matchups and carry out these predictions down to a tee, surprising us all each and every time.

I’m not here to discuss the Law of Attraction or the science behind putting your ambitions out there and how that will help you see them through but what I will highlight to those reading is the intense confidence in the delivery of each of these predictions and how completely calm and unmoving his expression remains as he speaks them.

Conor puts each and every one of these ‘predictions’ out there like they have already happened and in his mind, his destiny is as concrete and inevitable as the sun setting at the end of the day.

There’s no shred of doubt or fear in his eyes when he speaks about his destiny and though highlighting that fact is nothing groundbreaking, I truly believe that despite McGregor’s success, he is not alone in displaying and backing up that type of confidence on a consistent basis.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is another who falls into that truly exclusive category of those we can describe as ‘special’ martial artists. Of course, his troubles outside of the octagon due to injuries and his somewhat turbulent weight-cutting issues of late have hindered him to an extent but this article is not going to delve into those struggles, no matter how crucial they may prove to be.

I’ve followed the rise of Nurmagomedov for some time now and despite his fantastic showings in the octagon, for me, the most noteworthy thing about this sambo-master’s journey has been the unmistakable similarities he shares with McGregor in his mental approach.

His 24-0 record – injuries aside – suggests a perfect career so far, and though he hasn’t been as active as many (myself included) would have wished, his prowess as a martial artist sets him apart from the pack in a manner that is unquestionably similar to Conor McGregor.

It’s the intensity that you can see on his face each and every time he speaks about his destiny, however, that grabbed my attention from the off. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he has Conor’s unwavering self-belief and sees his own future successes as something of an inevitability rather than a possibility.

Khabib, like Conor, sees those in his way simply as unavoidable obstacles that he must dispatch to achieve his goals. There’s no emotion, and of course, there is respect but there is also a sense of dismissiveness in the way in which both men speak about and speak to their opponents. Khabib broke Michael Johnson in the above clip at the aforementioned UFC 205 and though Johnson kept battling on, Khabib – believing what he believes – simply told him his race was run. It wasn’t angry or forceful at all, it was cold, it was detached and it reeked of all of the certainty you find in the voice of Conor McGregor.

As a point of comparison, below is a video of Khabib’s would-be UFC 209 opponent, the fantastically talented and dangerous Tony Ferguson, who despite being a tremendous fighter (one of my own personal favourites, in fact), does stand as an example of someone who falls just short of that unquestionable intensity when he speaks his mind.

“If Conor McGregor and myself were ever to go toe-to-toe, I’d put him down, hard. I’d put him down to snap-jitsu, man, area, and that’s crazy. He would go to ‘Snapdown City’ and that would just be the end of Conor.”

The prediction for Conor quoted above is one that is stuttering and laced with a tinge of uncertainty, while his prediction for his scheduled bout with Khabib just felt rehearsed to me. I’m not taking a dig at El Cucuy in any way with this, in fact, most fighters don’t speak in the manner in which McGregor and Nurmagomedov do, but I just think for the sake of this argument, Ferguson’s delivery here is just very different to our pair of frighteningly determined athletes whose own respective beliefs can be seen written across their faces.

When Khabib says he doesn’t care about money, I believe him. When he says he doesn’t care about Conor McGregor, I believe him there too. There’s a brutal honesty in the way in which Khabib conducts himself that mirrors the Irish lightweight champion.

Nurmagomedov wants that belt for his legacy.

Like McGregor he wants to solidify himself as the very greatest to ever do it within this sport and leave, there’s no overabundance of ego or a belief that he might need to stick around longer in the event that his goals will fail, he – like Conor McGregor – has already made his intention to ride off into the sunset clear. 

There’s an unparalleled level of confidence and certainty these guys bring to the table that just cannot be matched.

I might be wrong here and I certainly do not think that everyone will agree with me on this one but these two very special martial artists – in my view at least – are on a collision course with each other, in which one man’s unwavering self-belief in his own destiny will be torn to shreds as the other gets his hand raised, and to me, there’s no matchup in MMA right now that can reach those high stakes.

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena

About Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at cillian@punditarena.com.