Yes, you read that correctly. UFC lightweight contender and self-proclaimed undisputed champion Khabib Nurmagomedov claims to have used a real life lion in his training camp in preparation for his bout with fellow contender Michael Johnson.
Nurmagomedov was already a dominant UFC fighter before video surfaced a few years ago of him wrestling a bear as a child in Russia. That footage only added to his mystique, but Nurmagomedov said during a recent appearance on TMZ Sports that he’s moved past bears and on to lions.
“Two months ago,” Nurmagomedov said. “When beginning my training camp for Michael Johnson, I had a couple rounds with lion in the Caucasus … south Russia.
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“This was very close matchup but this is sparring nobody can see. We [did not] make video because sparring is secret, you know this. But maybe next training camp, we’ll make video too.”
Nurmagomedov would go on to maul Johnson at UFC 205 and he can probably thank the lion for his victory. But “The Eagle”, as always, is staying humble in regards to who came out on top that day in the Caucasus Mountains.
“He’s my sparring partner, I cannot say if I beat him or he beat me — this is like teammate secret.” Nurmagomedov said.
As far as bears are concerned, Nurmagomedov says he going to have to chill on that a bit, since it led to a serious injury the last time he did it.
“I’ve a little bit stopped wrestling with bear because last time I was wrestling with him he hurt my ACL. That’s why I a little bit stop. Now I do a little bit of sparring, boxing with lion.”
It’s easy to dismiss Nurmagomedov’s claims since sparring with a lion, no muzzle, sounds risky even for a guy who fights people for a living. But considering there’s video evidence of Khabib going 1-on-1 with a bear, we don’t put it past him.