Khabib Nurmagomedov Says One of His 'Biggest Tasks' Is to Make MMA an Olympic Sport by 2028

Claudia Harmata
·3-min read

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty

Khabib Nurmagomedov may not have any plans to come out of retirement, but that doesn't mean his work in mixed martial arts is over.

During an interview in Uzbekistan on Tuesday, the UFC lightweight champion, 32, told reporters that he hopes to make MMA an Olympic sport in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"The inclusion of MMA in the Olympics is one of my biggest tasks for the next couple of years," Nurmagomedov said, according to ESPN's translation. "We're already working in this direction."

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The former Russian MMA fighter said there are "big chances" of bringing the sport into the Olympic arena, and revealed that he is currently working to schedule a meeting with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to discuss the matter.

"In the Olympics, with boxing, I think they changed the gloves. They don't want there to be a lot of blood," Nurmagomedov said. "But in terms of sponsorships, TV ratings, viewership, the MMA has it, and if it gets in the Olympics, it will be on par with track and field and soccer in terms of interest. This is my personal opinion. And we're already working in that direction."

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images Khabib Nurmagomedov

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) — which is tasked with determining the Olympic sports — previously considered allowing the MMA into the body before ultimately deciding against it in February 2019.

International Mixed Martial Arts Federation CEO Densign White denounced the decision at the time.

"We’re getting all these walls put up in front of us stopping us from gaining any recognition that will allow us to actually regulate the sport properly," White said, according to The Guardian. "We are a long way from getting IOC recognition, but GAISF recognition would actually give the sport credibility."

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White added that he believes one reason the GAISF may be putting off approving MMA is the fear that it would siphon off athletes from other sports.

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Nurmagomedov is regarded as one of the best MMA fighters in the history of the sport. He announced his retirement in October after his win over Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254.

"I promised my mother this is going to be my last fight," the athlete explained during his retirement speech, saying that his mother did not want him to continue fighting without his father, who died in July at age 57 after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to CBS Sports.

"If I give my word, I have to follow this," Nurmagomedov added. "I only want one thing from the UFC, I want to be number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this."