Khabib Nurmagomedov has admitted that Kamaru Usman may never be the same again following his devastating knockout defeat against Leon Edwards at UFC 278 on Sunday.
Usman was winning on the scorecards heading into the final round against Edwards, and looked to be on his way to the sixth successful defence of his welterweight title. However, he was caught by a head kick inside the final minute which left him motionless on the canvas.
Khabib shares the same manager as Usman, and was left ‘upset’ by the 35-year-old’s loss, but conceded that the Nigerian paid the ultimate cost for one lapse in concentration.
“I watched and honestly I was surprised – you could even say a little bit upset,” Khabib told Mr MMA Shorts.
“I have a good friendship with Kamaru and, of course, it was hard to watch as the best fighter in the world – who he is right now – got knocked out severely with 50 seconds remaining in the bout.
“I was thinking that (a decision win for Usman) is essentially how the contest will finish, just like he did to everyone else.
“But these fights are MMA, and you can see by yourself – for a second it all went wrong. Put his hand in the wrong place, your lights could go out if the proper defence is not in place. You can wake up in the locker room, and it’s over.”
Usman has been a dominant force in the 170-pound division ever since capturing UFC gold in 2019, but his 19-fight winning streak was snapped in dramatic fashion by Edwards.
The pair now have victory apiece over each other after Usman beat Edwards on points back in 2015, and all signs are pointing towards a third bout to settle the score in early 2023.
Khabib feels that Usman is capable of coming out on top in the trilogy fight, but has suggested that it may be difficult for him to bounce back from the first knockout loss of his career.
“I’m aware that the trilogy is already in the works. I believe (Usman) can beat Leon Edwards, but after such a knockout, a lot of people don’t recover.
“It will be interesting to see, but I would love to see the trilogy,” Khabib added.