While the sentiment could be flattering to Nurmagomedov, "The Eagle" is actually not a fan of the comparison.
“I think comparing Ali and me is probably wrong,” Nurmagomedov said during a recent media scrum (via Cole Shelton of BJ Penn.com). “Only if we talk about the fact that we are both champions and both Muslims. But all the things he did outside of the ring with this I cannot be compared. Indeed, at the time when 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 towards his race very much. So we cannot be compared.”
Nurmagomedov is set to defend his title against UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje next month at UFC 254. The champion also says he would have to go back in time and live through what Ali went through in his life before any comparisons could be made.
“To be able to compare me with him (Ali), I need to go back to those years and be black. And be a champion. After we would see how I would behave in such a situation. In this case, we could be compared,” says Nurmagomedov.
UFC 254 takes place on Saturday, October 24 from Fight Island in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, which streams live on ESPN+ pay-per-view.