Umar Nurmagomedov fires back at critics claiming he pulls out of fights and doesn’t compete enough

Umar Nurmagomedov would love to stay more active, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

The 28-year-old bantamweight contender competed for the first time in more than a year on Saturday at UFC Vegas 87, defeating Bekzat Almakhan after being forced out of a previously scheduled bout this past August against Cory Sandhagen in a five-round main event. As it stands, Nurmagomedov has only fought twice in the past 14 months, and he responded to critics claiming he’s earned a reputation for pulling out of fights and not competing as often as required to deserve a reputation as one of the best talents in the world at 135 pounds.

“Everybody talks about my pullouts,” Nurmagomedov said at his post-fight press conference. “Sean [O’Malley’s] coach and some different guys [talk about it]. In my life, I pulled out because of me, my health, two times. First time, I was sick. My face was very big and I didn’t sleep all night and I was very sick. I don’t remember [anything] worse than that time in my life. I didn’t fight, but it was a fight with Sergey Morozov and later I fought with him. Second time, because of me, because of my health, I pulled out because of my shoulder. I injured my shoulder and I did surgery and I will fight with Cory Sandhagen again, I hope.

“It’s two times when I pull out because of me. Other [times], when [the pandemic happened], when my uncle [Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov] passed away, when my opponents pull out, they’re going to count everything and say Umar pulled out eight times. It’s not true.”

Despite a perfect 17-0 record, Nurmagomedov had endured plenty of bad luck in his attempts to work toward title contention in the UFC.

It’s unfortunate, but Nurmagomedov says ultimately injuries only forced him to pull out of two contests, but nobody wants to acknowledge the other circumstances that led to fight cancellations.

“I pull out two times,” Nurmagomedov said. “One time, I fight with this same guy again. I don’t think someone is scared. Guys come to MMA, mixed martial arts, and I think everybody who comes to do this job goes inside and tries to make damage to each other. Everybody is brave. I just want to fight.

“Next, Cory Sandhagen — he talked about [fighting me during International Fight Week], he wants to fight, let’s go, I’m ready. If he don’t want it, somebody else. I really don’t care.”

Nurmagomedov acknowledged that the damage inflicted on his body due to a rigorous training schedule can come back to bite him occasionally, but that’s just the nature of the sport.

Because he can be called upon to compete at any time, Nurmagomedov stays training year-round, and punishing the body like that week after week, month after month would catch up to anybody.

“I’m doing a hard job,” Nurmagomedov said. “They said to me, ‘You’re going to fight,’ for example, ‘the last fight in January.’ They said, ‘Yes, you’re going to be fighting in March.’ I keep working. I think nobody can do hard training all year. That’s why I’m sometimes injured.

“First time I injured my knee, second time I injured my shoulder because I’m not healthy like a robot. I can break too. That’s why I want to fight everything [in] three months. I want to be active. It doesn’t depend on me, but when you’re injured, what are you going to do?”

As far as his standing in the division, Nurmagomedov promises he’s not afraid to face whoever the UFC throws at him, and he’s certainly not looking for an easy opponent. He’s confident that he can beat anybody in the world at 135 pounds right now, and he’s never going to regret expressing that confidence in himself.

“I’m talking because I know what job I did,” Nurmagomedov said. “I know other guys, what they’re doing. I know my team. The way I’m talking, I can smash and I can finish Petr Yan. I’m serious. I can do this. When I talk about Cory Sandhagen and I can finish him, I’m serious.

“Not because I’m cocky or something like that. No. But guys, I have a very, very good team. Look at our team. Four guys are lightweight division champions. Who else teams have like that? Nobody.”

Now that he’s back and healthy again, Nurmagomedov doesn’t want to waste any time booking his next fight. He plans to train through Ramadan and hopes that UFC 303 on June 29 could potentially serve as a landing spot for his return to action.

“[UFC] said we have a date [International Fight Week] with Cory Sandhagen,” Nurmagomedov said. “Before this fight, they’re talking about this and Cory is talking about this, so I think it’s going to happen.”

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