Khabib Nurmagomedov (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

The Secrets Behind Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Intense Training Regimen

Often, the main component that separates the GOAT-tier fighters from the elite is the small changes they implement as part of their wider lifestyle. Khabib’s training regimen is well documented by those in the sport; it’s part of the wider package that helped to turn him into a household name. 

Fighters who do the bare minimum in training or do not push themselves to their limits often lose that extra few percent on fight night. Although many can push themselves over the line, it’s the sort of edge that created a Dagestanian machine by the name of Khabib. But how much of what has reported about his training is fact, and how much is fiction? Let’s dive in.

Khabib’s place in UFC history

Well, he’s the greatest lightweight of all time, isn’t he? Good luck to anyone who is looking to argue that case. His rivalry with Conor McGregor helped to mainstream the sport. While the Dagestani is by far a much better all-around fighter than McGregor, it often takes two to push a PPV above the one million mark. 


His demolition of the Irishman also brought in many people looking to explore MMA sports betting markets and see what the top bookmakers had to offer. Combat sports bets follow a similar structure, including straight bets, a specific method of victory, or part of a parlay bet combined with other fights on the card. Betting on mixed martial arts is a growing part of the sport. With the changes that have been brought into place for digital sports betting, particularly in the US, you can often get in-play markets while watching a bout, while analysts will often provide their betting tips or predictions before a big UFC event. 

These changes also brought in a whole raft of people who wanted to see what the sport offers, resulting in a significant spike in the number of Dagestanis looking to take up the sport following the success of Khabib, and more recently, his stablemate and current pound-for-pound number one, Islam Makhachev.

Sure, McGregor might have the brashness and the gratuitous and insulting bravado that he’s become infamous for. There’s no denying that it helped elevate UFC to a new level of popularity, regardless of what you think of his behavior in the buildup to fights. Khabib, however, did all his talking in the octagon and let his training outside the ring prepare him for the most significant challenges of his career. But what was so intense about it, and why did it result in such impressive results? Let’s have a look. 

The importance of discipline

Khabib lives and breathes his training. Even in retirement, he’s known for working significant shifts in the gym, which shows the mindset that lies at the base of his training regimen. Many coaches and prominent sporting names have different definitions of discipline. 

Still, one thing they all agree on is how important it is to not lose focus or discipline in training camp. Khabib combines his intense physical training with the correct levels of downtime, and participates in activities that strengthen his champion mentality, including meditation, long sauna baths and no alcohol – which is something he maintains outside of training camp, too.  

However, just because fighters might have a glass of wine or let their hair down between fights doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to become a champion, but it can take away that extra edge that separates the true elites from the world-level guys – this applies to most sports too, not just MMA.

Khabib’s training camp – the sculpting of a champion

Up in the Dagestan mountains, there’s something in the air that is creating some of the greatest UFC fighters of all time. Training at a high altitude is intense; the air is thinner, and once the body acclimatizes to it, it helps lung capacity once the fighter comes down to a lower level. 

Khabib isn’t the first person in combat to do this – professional boxers have trained in the mountains for decades. One of the most popular spots for pro fighters is Big Bear, which sits at an even higher elevation of around 7,000 feet, compared to the 5,000 feet of the Dagestan mountains.

However, the temperature and conditions in Dagestan make it just as harsh, if not more complex, a training camp. If you head on over to Chael Sonnen’s YouTube channel, he describes in detail how Khabib once took on eight sparring partners in a row – no breaks, no water – and forced all of them into submission. 

No fighter in the sport is known for such an intense sparring regimen; even the mere idea of it is making me feel exhausted. The truth is that this is how greats are born in any sport; they dedicate their lives to pushing themselves as far as possible, and the reward at the end of their career is when they etch their names alongside those of the greatest of all time. 

Diet and mental focus

Discipline isn’t the only integral part of an elite champion mindset; Khabib often discussed how he would use downtime after training to positively visualize the fight night and how it would go, and put himself into a mind-frame that instilled the idea of total victory.

Sticking to a strict diet plan of five small meals a day, Khabib would have green vegetable smoothies, protein supplements and a cheat day, occasionally consisting of pizza or burgers.

Contrary to what some believe, dieticians have often spoken of the importance of a cheat day during a training camp, as it can boost endorphin activity in the brain, provide a solid structure and allow a window to unwind during highly intense sparring and cardio on a daily basis. 

I remember the buildup to the chaotic McGregor fight like it was yesterday. The Irishman said some heinous things to get into Khabib’s head – and it didn’t work. Even with a huge crowd against him at press conferences, Khabib had a steely focus in his eyes that clearly had McGregor concerned.

Aided by his countless hours of intense sparring, clean living and spiritual focus, Khabib showed no fear in taking on the erratic McGregor, strangling him into submission in the fourth round of their bout. This consistency and clean lifestyle helped propel him into the highest echelons of the sport to create an undeniable legacy

You only need to see how Khabib now lives as a trainer. Despite being only in his mid-30s, he achieved everything he needed to in the sport, and he is financially set for life. While nobody would blame him for taking a big chunk of time off from training and living a life of luxury with his hard-earned wealth, this isn’t what he is about. 

It’s not part of his makeup or character. While some might deem the inability to tune out and not enjoy the finer things in life a curse, Khabib is one of the greatest role models in combat sports history. He is respectful of opponents, he’s well-spoken and also treats fans with respect. He spends his time and focus on giving back to the MMA community and bettering himself as a trainer. 

By instilling this focus and drive into a new generation of Dagestani fighters, Khabib is showing just how important it is to have an intense training regimen and to retain focus both in and out of the octagon.