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The Russian lightweight had a torrid camp ahead of his fight with Justin Gaethje. He trained with a broken foot and struggled with the weight cut before his first fight without his father and coach, Abdulmanap, who died last summer.
Now Khabib has gone into details of his battle with mumps, the illness which struck him on 9 September - the day before he was scheduled to fly out to Abu Dhabi for the late October fight - and eventually put him in intensive care.
"I started feeling worse on the plane and when we arrive, I get a high fever," Khabib said in an interview with ACA fighter Magomed Ismailov.
"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."
Judging by the astonishing picture of his severely swollen face - shared for the first time by the 32-year-old - mumps did a worse number on Khabib than any MMA opponent ever managed.
As a result, the then UFC lightweight champion had to delay starting his training in Abu Dhabi until the end of September. But his challenges did end there.
"After 10 days, I broke my thumb," he explained. "I broke my thumb on October 7."
Nurmagomedov understandably admitted that he "wanted to cancel the fight" at the time. However he and his team eventually decided to go ahead with the original date.
"I was having so much [adversity] with this fight, the disease and fractures," he said. "At the end of the day, we decided to keep the fight on."
Eventually, despite all of the challenges, Khabib made the 155lb limit and looked spectacular on fight night. 'The Eagle' dominated Gaethje, winning by second-round submission and then shocking the MMA world by announcing his retirement in the Octagon post-fight.
"You may not see this, but I felt it: He gave up," Nurmagomedov said now 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."
Khabib certainly had to show incredible mental strenngth as he improved his record to 30-0, overcoming mumps and a series of broken bones before he even entered the Octagon.
All this without his father, Abdulmanap, who guided him throughout his incredible rise to combat sports greatness.
Featured image credit: UFC
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