UFC legend Daniel Cormier has shocked many fans of the sport by claiming Muhammad Ali would be ranked third in his list of greatest-ever fighters, behind Floyd Mayweather and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
His answer left his co-host, Stephen A Smith, in disbelief, with many of his followers sharing this sentiment. Others, however, have voiced their agreement, with calls for Nurmagomedov to make a comeback and prove just how good he is.
The Nurmagomedov effect
In 2022, we’re watching matches online as well as on television, with many appreciating the ability to tune in at any time and from anywhere. Like most other sports, UFC has seen a rise in its streaming viewership, and one man, in particular, has pulled in the crowds: Khabib Nurmagomedov. In the UK, the top three UFC matches in the last five years have all featured the Russian fighter, according to a study by ExpressVPN; his fight against Conor McGregor is the most popular even though it was all the way back in 2018. The obvious reason for his popularity is that audiences love to watch Nurmagomedov spar on account of his incredible talent.
It seems former UFC heavyweight Daniel Cormier is among his legion of fans. Asked during an interview on First Take to list his top five greatest fighters, he named both Floyd Mayweather and Nurmagomedov ahead of Ali, before rounding out his ranking with Georges St-Pierre in fourth place and Amanda Nunes in fifth.
Nurmagomedov vs Ali
So, who’s the better fighter? Russian star Nurmagomedov may be less well-known among the mainstream public, but when he ended his career in 2020, he did so as an undefeated champion. Having gone head-to-head with the likes of McGregor and Dustin Poirier – and come out victorious – he’s widely considered to be one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history.
Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, is a name known to everyone – for his exploits outside of the ring as much as in it. During his glory days, he beat renowned fighters including George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Sonny Liston. However, unlike Nurmagomedov, he didn’t get to retire undefeated, losing to Trevor Berbick in 1981 among others (a fight that signalled the end of his career).
Explaining his reasoning to his First Take co-host, Cormier said: “[Ali] was a pillar of our community. He did so many things outside of the boxing ring, and I think that is why we elevate him to the greatest boxer of all time.
“I have reserved the top of my list for the undefeated… The way [Nurmagomedov] beat Conor McGregor was second to none, and he could have defended his belt as many times as he wanted.”
Sportsperson of the Century
Despite the defence of his decision, many have disagreed with Cormier, pointing to the fact Ali was named Sportsperson of the Century by both Sports Illustrated and the BBC at the turn of the millennium.
In addition, they cite the fact that Nurmagomedov – while unbeaten – only made three defences of his UFC lightweight title, failing to respond to challenges from his long-term rival Tony Ferguson, among others.
Tell us, if the decision was yours, who would you pick: Nurmagomedov or Ali?