Khabib Nurmagomedov has revealed how legendary Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson accepted his decision not to have a drink when they met after the teetotal devout Muslim joked that he could “smash all of you guys”.
Retired lightweight champion Nurmagomedov was at Old Trafford to watch United draw 1-1 with Everton on Saturday, meeting revered coach Ferguson, world’s fastest man Usain Bolt and former Red Devils star Patrice Evra after the match.
Abstinent Muslim Nurmagomedov later confessed that he turned down the offer of a glass of wine from the 13-time Premier League-winning boss because of his religious beliefs, teasing Ferguson that it could have led to violence.
“I had to explain to him,” the popular Dagestani recounted at a talk later that evening as part of a mini-tour of England.
“There are two things: you can be straight and say ‘no, no, no – I am Muslim, I never drink.’ But I also told him, ‘this is not good because if I drink, I can smash all of you guys. It’s not a good idea.’
“Patrice Evra and Usain Bolt understand. Alex Ferguson asked me about wine. For him, it’s good – I don’t judge him.
“He [Ferguson] understands because he doesn’t think I should smash everybody, so he said, ‘OK, don’t drink.'”
United supporter Bolt has had trials with professional clubs, and Evra and Ferguson, his former manager, were pictured dining with the Frenchman’s Danish model partner, Margaux Alexandra, after the club heroes were thought to have played instrumental roles in the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nurmagomedov’s blunt threat to “smash” opponents has become an iconic term among UFC fans, and the 29-fight unbeaten powerhouse is also arguably the world’s most high-profile Muslim athlete.
“Being a Muslim is not easy, but at the same time, you don’t have to make it tough,” he said. “Just be a good person and show them that you are a Muslim.”
The 33-year-old is rarely shy to voice his opinions, courting controversy when he fiercely rebuked France president Emmanuel Macron for what he perceived to be remarks that were disrespectful to his religion.
More recently, Nurmagomedov received a mixed response for questioning the need for MMA ring girls.
“All my friends know I eat halal, I don’t drink,” he reflected of his willingness to be open about his religious beliefs. “If I feel something, I say it.”
Nurmagomedov arrived in Manchester by helicopter and was inundated with requests for pictures, with more than 1,000 fans said to have bought tickets for a photo session with the MMA megastar.
The huge football fan was presented with a shirt bearing the number seven that is synonymous with Ronaldo and another of Nurmagomedov’s friends, former United winger and England captain David Beckham.
Nurmagomedov’s tour, ‘The Legacy Continues’, is being held in support of orphans around the world and will visit Yorkshire on Sunday.