UFC

Nurmagomedov wrestles a bear

Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrates after defeating Pat Healy (not pictured) in their UFC lightweight bout at the Air Canada Center on September 21, 2013 i
"Training with humans is un-BEAR-able." Bear puns, all day at FOX Sports.
FOX Sports Marc Raimondi
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Think Johny Hendricks has a great wrestling pedigree? He’s got nothing on Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Growing up in Russia, the rising UFC lightweight used to wrestle bears. No, really. There’s even a video – not-so-aptly set to some bizarre techno-rap remix – of a 9-year-old Nurmagomedov tangling with one.

Sure, the cub on the video looks cute and cuddly. But it’s still a bear. As humans, here’s what we know about bears: We’d rather not be anywhere around them. It doesn’t matter if it’s black, brown or polar.

Maybe things are different in Dagestan, where Nurmagomedov was reared. Perhaps this little fella was merely a pet and in Russia wrestling with your bear is the same thing as playing fetch with a dog here in the states.

A more likely scenario is that Nurmagomedov was just raised to be a bad ass, which has segued nicely into a promising UFC career. Look at that textbook single-leg takedown and his defense when the bear gets his back. C’mon. It’s that kind of training that allowed Nurmagomedov to land a UFC-record 21 takedowns against Abel Trujillo in May.

Sixteen years after scrapping with the bear, the 25-year-old is a perfect 21-0 as an MMA fighter and has finished 14 of those bouts.

He’s coming off a decision win at UFC 165 over Pat Healy, whose facial hair might have reminded him of his furry friend from back in Dagestan. Rumor has it that Gilbert Melendez could be next up for Nurmagomedov in a fight that could propel him into a top-contender spot in the 155-pound division.

Melendez might have significantly better boxing, but taking on “El Nino” in the UFC just doesn’t seem as scary as wrestling a bear in the Russian wilderness.

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