UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov received a message of congratulations from Russian president Vladimir Putin when they met on Thursday.
Nurmagomedov and his father sat down with Putin and Vladimir Vasilyev, the head of the Republic of Dagestan, after he landed in Russia following his third-round submission victory over Dustin Poirier.
Nurmagomedov is one of the most popular and recognized athletes in Russia, especially in his home in Dagestan where he lives and trains outside of his fight camps in the United States.
“I want to congratulate you. It was a decent fight against a strong and tenacious rival,” Putin told Nurmagomedov (translation via RT Sport).
In response, Nurmagomedov paid homage to Poirier for the respect they shared leading up to the event versus the volatile war of words that happened in the weeks and months ahead of his last fight against Conor McGregor.
“Yes, the opponent was strong and respectable. This time around I fought against a person who respected me,” Nurmagomedov said.
Funny enough, Putin actually met with McGregor in 2018 during the World Cup Finals, which were held in Moscow. A few months later, the Russian president celebrated with Nurmagomedov following his fourth-round submission win over the Irish superstar at UFC 229.
Putin, who is a well known supporter of combat sports and has attended fights in Russia in the past, commended Nurmagomedov on his performance while defending his lightweight title for the second time.
“Well it depends on the person,” Putin said when referencing the fight against McGregor. “But of course a professional athlete should be like this. You had a convincing victory.
“I watched the fight, you submitted him with a rear-naked choke, it was a classic choke hold. You did it in the correct way, without squeezing his throat, but holding him on both sides of the neck, as it should be. It was all fair.”
During the meeting, Nurmagomedov also admitted that he felt the pressure performing in front of a very supportive crowd in Abu Dhabi this past weekend but ultimately he still got the job done.
Nurmagomedov’s celebratory homecoming has become common place for the undefeated champion as his star power in Russia continues to grow with every fight.