Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has battled with injuries since he first lifted the belt in 2015.
Since that dominant victory over Chris Weidman, Rockhold has lost three of his last four bouts. Given his injury woes and not being able to fight more than four times in almost six years, he was once publicly flirting with the idea of retirement.
Rockhold, also a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has changed his tune and is on the campaign trail to make his return to the Octagon at the 185 pound limit after a brief stint as a light heavyweight.
To help him, he says his long-time teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to become his coach. Last week, Nurmagomedov officially relinquished his UFC lightweight crown as his retirement was confirmed by the UFC.
“He’s assuming this coaching role now,” Rockhold said of Nurmagomedov in an interview with TMZ Sports. “He’s going off on me, wanting to coach me. He wants to be a big part of my comeback so it’s pretty funny to see Khabib assume this role.
“He’s going for ‘Coach of the Year.’ That’s what he wants. He wants to be the next great thing, follow in his dad’s footsteps. That’s what his dad always did. His dad was always insightful and always had a good eye for the sport and I think Khabib is ready to assume that role.”
Of course, Nurmagomedov’s retirement came about following the tragic passing of his father, coach and mentor Abdulmanap. “The Eagle” has indicated he will continue to be a presence in the sport even if he’s not fighting and it appears he could corner Rockhold on his fighting return, which is targeted for this summer.
As for Khabib’s coaching abilities, Rockhold has every confidence that his AKA stablemate will be a valuable resource for him and his other teammates.
“Of course he can be a good coach,” Rockhold said. “Sometimes you have to put yourself aside. Even if you know a lot, it’s better to be guided, like a mindless training if you trust in your coach, someone to direct you and put you in the right way, because no matter how much you know, sometimes you’ve got to step back and let somebody else direct the situation.
“He knows how to press the pace. The thing with Khabib, he always pressed. The first day he showed up I was like, I like this kid. He showed up by himself and I was like, he works hard. I was like, come with me, let’s do this, and he always pressed me to my limit. That’s what it really takes. You need someone to get on your back, press you, and he knows all the techniques and the routes to do so.”