Khabib Nurmagomedov often hits opponents at their weakest point. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Dagestani import Nurmagomedov is a relative newcomer to both the English language and the highest levels of MMA, but he is nevertheless one of the sport’s most promising up-and-coming trash talkers. While his vocabulary and syntax might be limited, his burns certainly are not, and many opponents have felt his sting.
Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has been a constant target. According to Nurmagomedov, Pettis was a “paper champion,” “pretty boy,” prone to breaking under pressure and, in a lost in translation moment, “a very beautiful man.” One insult about Pettis needing disability payments rebounded when Nurmagomedov was himself injured while preparing for his fight with Donald Cerrone, and Pettis’ own injury shortly thereafter evened out the karma. Cerrone was likewise a target, with Nurmagomedov admonishing him to drink less and train more. In a nearly unspeakable insult, the Dagestan native even questioned the legitimacy of Cerrone’s cowboy credentials.
The truly compelling thing about Nurmagomedov’s diet of trash talk is his unerring ability to bury a morsel of truth in his insults. Pettis is injury prone, for example, and he did seem to break in the face of Rafael dos Anjos’ constant pressure. If Nurmagomedov can stay healthy and string together a few fights, his combination of charming broken English, confidence, mastery of Twitter as a medium of insult and surprising insight makes it likely that he will climb to the top of these rankings.
Number 9 » He has always brought more than a bit of flair to his MMA career. The braggadocio that led him to walk out in Dream with a coterie of Japanese schoolgirls and a crown has also fed his fantastic repertoire of trash talk over the years. Beyond his elite wrestling skills and athleticism, that attention to hype and showmanship has made him an asset to every promotion for which he has fought.