The man behind Khabib’s famous Sambo T-shirt in Brazil has told the story of how it came into being, as he prepares to put his own world title on the line at Brave CF 46.
In 2013, Khabib’s third appearance as a UFC fighter saw him head to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he teased the Brazilian fans with a now-infamous T-shirt bearing the slogan, “If Sambo Was Easy, It Would Be Called Jiu-Jitsu.”
The slogan certainly drew plenty of attention, as Nurmagomedov then showcased his special brand of grappling to finish Thiago Tavares on the mat with ground and pound to score his third straight win and move him up the UFC’s lightweight ladder.
The man behind that slogan was fellow Russian fighter Eldar Eldarov, who created the slogan after seeing a similar phrase, “If Judo was easy it would be called football,” and adapting it for Khabib’s fight in Brazil.
“The person who put this phrase on the T-shirt was me,” revealed Eldarov, who is set to put his own world title on the line on January 16 when he defends his 165-pound super lightweight title at Brave CF 46 in Sochi, Russia.
“I got the idea for the phrase when I went for judo training and saw someone wearing a T-shirt with the phrase ‘If judo was easy it would be called football’. I was set to go to Brazil to corner Khabib at the time. So I bought a black T-shirt and printed the phrase on it. He wore it on the weigh-ins.
“As soon as we got back to the hotel and turned on the wi-fi, we were bombarded with messages from people talking about the T-shirt.
“It became very controversial, some people even went to the extent of giving death threats. It wasn’t intended to be offensive, it was just a joke. At the end of the day, we respect all sports.”
Eldarov’s own sambo background includes a silver medal in the Sambo World Cup, and he’ll be keen to utilize those ground skills against Brazilian opposition when he takes on former UFC welterweight Leonardo Mafra in the main event in Sochi.
The event will also feature other notable Russian MMA stars, including former UFC flyweight title challenger Ali Bagautinov, who returns to the sport after a one-year hiatus.