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Islam Makhachev Recalls Sharing Mouthpiece with Teammates Early in Career



Islam Makhachev had to go through all kinds of trials and tribulations to become the Ultimate Fighting Championship's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter.

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Makhachev (25-1) hails from Makhachkala, Dagestan, a region where the most common dream for kids now is to become a UFC champion. The area has also been successfully churning out a plethora of highly-skilled fighters who have established themselves in every major mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

However, while combat sports have always been a part of Dagestani culture, the hype behind them only peaked with the crowning of Makhachev’s teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov as UFC champion in 2018. The Eagle’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, considered a pioneer of the sport in the Russian territory, is credited for the massive growth of MMA in the region by crafting champions like his son and Makhachev.

Abdulmanap managed to produce world-class athletes under harsh conditions in the mountains of Dagestan, often without the best training facilities. Makhachev recently shared his early career struggles while training under the tutelage of Nurmagomedov. The UFC lightweight champ revealed that he once used to share a mouthpiece during competitions, sometimes with as many as 10 of his teammates. While they would clean the mouthpiece with hot water, it wasn’t as much for sanitization as to slightly change its shape to fit the next fighter.

“Before we don’t have a mouthpiece,” Makhachev said in a recent appearance on “The Weighing In” Podcast. “We go to some competition, and we can use one mouthpiece. I swear to God, I remember, one competition we have one mouthpiece for like 10 people. In the rules, you cannot go inside the fight without the mouthpiece. We clean with hot water and everybody [use]… We put hot water because it’s [the shape] different you know, change it a little bit.”

Order Now! UFC 302 “Makhachev vs. Poirier” Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Khabib retired from the sport as the UFC lightweight champ with an undefeated 29-0 record following the death of his father in 2020. Sticking to Nurmagomedov’s father’s game plan, Makhachev took over the reins by dethroning Charles Oliveira in 2022. Makhachev has since defended his strap twice against former featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski. Makhachev is now slated to defend his title against Dustin Poirier (30-8) in the main event at UFC 302 on June 1 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
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