Khabib Nurmagomedov addressed recent comparisons made between himself and boxing legend Muhammad Ali, stating that he is not worthy of comparison to the late pugilist regarded by many as the greatest of all time.
Like Ali famously became, Nurmagomedov is a practicing Muslim who has seen his global profile rapidly grow thanks to a perfect 28-0 record and victories over the likes of Conor McGregor.
However, the Russian lightweight does not see enough evidence to justify a comparison to an all-time great like Ali, who passed away in 2016.
“I like that people compare us, but I think it is inappropriate,” Nurmagomoedov told True Gym MMA in Russian.
Ali won an Olympic gold medal at the 1960 Games in Rome before winning the WBA, WBC and The Ring heavyweight titles in 1964 at age 22 to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
He was also one of the seminal sporting figures of the 20th century thanks to his political activism. Ali spoke out against racial injustice and famously refused to be drafted into the military because of his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War in 1966.
For that, Ali was stripped of his championships and jailed for draft evasion. He was finally able to return to the ring after a three-and-a-half-year absence.
And it was Ali's impact outside the arenas that has convinced the 31-year-old of his stance on the matter.
“All the things he did outside the ring, with them I can’t be compared,” he said.
“Indeed, at the time he was a champion. He was another race, and at that time in America, black people were treated badly.
"And according to his stories, he was not even served in restaurants. He threw away the gold medal. He changed the attitude toward his race very much, so we can’t be compared.”
Nurmagomedov is next scheduled for competition on October 24 when he meets interim lightweight titleholder Justin Gaethje in a unficiation bout at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.