Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was named the MMA fighter of the year at the ESPY awards.
Nurmagomedov was up against UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, and UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, but he managed to beat them all out to win the coveted award. Nurmagomedov earned the ESPY award on the strength of his submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 last year. It was a phenomenal win for Numagomedov, and even though it was his only fight in the last year, it was enough for him to take home the award.
In some ways, this could be considered a career achievement award for Nurmagomedov, who is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. At 29-0, he surprised a lot of people when he decided to walk away from the sport, but he’s explained since then that he is putting his family first at this point of his career. Nurmagomedov has simply been dominant and he deserves this honor and everything else he’s accomplished in MMA. He walked away from the sport while on the top of his game, and in a sport that is often cruel to the athletes who stay in the game too long, he left the game with his wits intact.
As for him winning the award, there is certainly the argument that Ngannou could have been the winner after destroying Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight title, or that Nunes could have taken it for her dominant wins over Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson, or that Namajunas could have won for beating Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang. In the end, however, “The Eagle” was given the award and it’s hard to say it was the wrong choice.