Khabib Nurmagomedov has admitted that Kamaru Usman may never be the same after his devastating knockout defeat to Leon Edwards at UFC 278 on Sunday.
Usman won on the scorecards en route to the final round against Edwards, and looked set to make the sixth successful defense of his welterweight title. However, in the last minute he was caught by a main kick, leaving him motionless on the canvas.
Khabib, who shares the same manager as Usman, was “upset” by the loss of the 35-year-old, but admitted the Nigerian paid the ultimate price for one error of concentration.
“I watched and honestly I was surprised – you might even be a little upset,” Khabib told MMA Shorts.
“I have a good friendship with Kamaru and of course it was difficult to watch the best fighter in the world – which he is now – being knocked out severely with 50 seconds to go.
“I thought (a win for Usman) is essentially how the match will end, just like he did with everyone else.
“But these fights are MMA, and you can see it for yourself – for a moment it all went wrong. Put his hand in the wrong place, your lights can go out if the right defense 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 since he captured UFC gold in 2019, but his 19-fight winning streak was dramatically cut short by Edwards.
The pair now each have a win over each other after Usman defeated Edwards on points in 2015, and all signs point to a third fight to tie the score in early 2023.
Khabib believes 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 am aware that the trilogy is already in the works. I believe that (Usman) Leon can beat Edwards, but after such a knockout, many people do not recover.
“It will be interesting to watch, but I would love to see the trilogy,” Khabib added.