Daniel Cormier has been a long-time training partner and friend of UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. That is why when it was announced that Nurmagomedov would return to defend his title against interim champion Justin Gaethje, Cormier was a bit shocked by the news.
In a recent interview with Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie, Cormier acknowledged that it surprised him that Nurmagomedov decided to return following the passing of his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov last month. Cormier and many others noted the special bond and close relationship Khabib had with his father and that’s why he said he was shocked by his teammates decision return.
“I was a little nervous initially. Not nervous, I was a little taken aback. After I did the show [his show on ESPN with Ariel Helwani] I had heard that Khabib was looking more at getting going sooner than later. So, when the announcement was made, it didn’t surprise me because I had an inclination it was going to happen. But I thought he would be away for a while. But nothing makes me happier than my champion coming back and defending his belt.” (H/T MMA Junkie)
While he’s focused on his own upcoming fight, a trilogy with reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, and a possible pending retirement, Cormier also believes he will take a step back for Nurmagomedov’s fight. Normally, Cormier is part of a three-man booth for pay-per-view cards, with Joe Rogan and Jon Anik, but the former two-weight champion told MMA Junkie he will likely step back from commentary on that night.
The relationship between Daniel Cormier and Nurmagomedov extends much further than just teammates in the gym, and as they both prepare for their respective title fights, it goes without saying they’ll be with each other every step of the way.