Undefeated for almost eight years in MMA, former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Paulo Filho in 2007 was labeled by Anderson Silva as the best middleweight fighter in the world.
Known for his effective grappling game, the Carlson Gracie blackbelt, who has been retired since 2014, recently discussed Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 with Sherdog.com. Filho offered a definitive take on the retired lightweight champion’s place among the sport’s all-time greats.
"Khabib´s win was a lesson to make all MMA fighters recall the origin of our sport which is martial arts, respect to the master, respect to your origins,” Filho said. “He showed to the world of MMA that it´s not necessary to trash talk or disrespect opponents to be a champion and be popular among fans.
“The numbers never lie -- 29-0. In my opinion, after what he did Saturday, Khabib is the best of all time.”
Filho also revealed that Khabib´s homage to his late father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, made him cry.
"My father was my biggest supporter since I was a kid, taking me to judo and jiu-jitsu classes every day. I also had a fight a few days after he passed away, and I know exactly how difficult it must have been for Khabib to make weight and fight. The scene of him crying after winning really moved me,” said Filho, who also pointed out many similarities between his master, Carlson Gracie, and Khabib´s father.
"I see Abdulmanap as a Russian Carlson Gracie. Besides being similar physically, they are both great champion makers and people who support the ones who have talent and no financial advantages,” he continued. “I have to tell you that when Khabib won via triangle choke my mother thought I was crazy because I started to jump and scream like it was one of my teammates of BTT in Pride times. In addition to his beautiful story with his dad, Khabib showed the world of MMA that a top grappler still makes a difference in the sport.”
With Nurmagomedov presumably vacating the lightweight crown, Filho predicts that Conor McGregor will once again ascend to the top of the division.
"The only one who was able to neutralize his excellent distance control was Khabib; all the other top 5 in that division will not be able to do that,” Filho said. “If Khabib doesn’t return, I see McGregor as new king of that division."
Filho also pointed to Khamzat Chimaev as a strong contender in the UFC’s welterweight division. “I see him like a Khabib 2.0,” he said.
Additionally, Filho views multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Rodolfo Vieira as a future middleweight contender.
"There is no way to compare the ground level of Rodolfo Vieira with any of UFC fighters. He is way above everybody in all divisions,” Filho said. “Besides that he is also a great athlete. All he needs is a good Greco guy. If He improves his approach and Greco technique, in two years, it will be hard to stop him.”
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