When it comes to mixed martial arts, Khabib Nurmagomedov stands out as one of the greatest fighters of all time. With an undefeated professional record of 29-0, the retired UFC lightweight champion has captured the attention of fight fans worldwide.

However, there has been some confusion surrounding Khabib’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) belt. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the Khabib BJJ belt, and its significance, and shed light on the controversy surrounding his belt promotion.

The Origin of the BJJ Belt System

The BJJ belt system has its roots in Judo, a martial art developed by Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century.

Kano introduced colored belts to signify a practitioner’s level of skill and progress. Eventually, this belt system was adopted by BJJ, a grappling-oriented martial art derived from Judo.

The Traditional BJJ Belt Progression

In BJJ, the progression through different belt ranks follows a systematic approach. The traditional belt order, from lowest to highest, consists of the white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt, and black belt.

Each belt represents a significant leap in skill and knowledge. Black belt holders are considered highly skilled and have spent years honing their craft.

The Controversy Surrounding Khabib’s BJJ Belt

For many years, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s official BJJ belt color remained a mystery to fans and analysts.

Despite his exceptional grappling skills showcased in numerous fights, Khabib was often seen wearing a white belt during training sessions and competitions.

This caused speculation and debate within the martial arts community, as Khabib’s skill set warranted higher recognition. Subsequently, it was revealed that his official BJJ belt was, in fact, a black belt.

Khabib’s Relationship with BJJ

Although Khabib Nurmagomedov is primarily known for his grappling prowess, it is important to note that his background lies in different forms of wrestling.

Growing up in Dagestan, Russia, Khabib trained extensively in Combat Sambo, a mix of Judo and Wrestling, before transitioning to MMA. This is one of the factors that led to the initial confusion regarding his BJJ belt.

Special Considerations for Applying BJJ Belts

Recognizing Khabib’s exceptional grappling skills and his status as a UFC champion, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) decided to award him an honorary black belt.

This rare honor is typically reserved for individuals who have made significant contributions to the art of BJJ or have showcased outstanding skills in related martial arts disciplines.

The IBJJF’s Honorary Black Belt

The IBJJF’s decision to award Khabib Nurmagomedov an honorary black belt came as a surprise to many in the martial arts world. Some criticized it, arguing that the traditional hierarchy of belt promotions should be followed strictly.

Others, however, saw it as a fitting recognition of Khabib’s achievements and skill, regardless of his specific training in BJJ.

Khabib’s BJJ Belt in Perspective

It is crucial to understand that while Khabib Nurmagomedov possesses a black belt in BJJ, his approach to grappling may differ from traditional BJJ practitioners. His style incorporates elements derived from his Sambo and wrestling background, making him a unique and versatile martial artist.

The Importance of Skill over Belt Color

Ultimately, the belt color held by a martial artist should not solely define their abilities. Skill, technique, and approach to training are what truly showcase a fighter’s capabilities.

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s dominance in the UFC lightweight division stands as a testament to this principle. Regardless of belt color, his grappling skills have proven to be world-class.

Examples of Non-BJJ Experts Achieving Success

Khabib is not the only fighter to achieve success in MMA without an extensive BJJ background. Other fighters who have excelled in grappling without reaching high ranks in BJJ include Georges St-Pierre, who possessed a blue belt but had exceptional wrestling skills, and Randy Couture, a former UFC champion with primarily wrestling proficiency.

These examples reinforce the notion that success in MMA is not solely dependent on BJJ belt rankings.


The controversy surrounding Khabib Nurmagomedov’s BJJ belt demonstrates the complexity of belt systems in martial arts.

While traditional BJJ belt progression follows a set hierarchy, exceptions can be made to honor exceptional athletes who have made a significant impact.

Khabib’s honorary black belt acknowledges his outstanding skills, although his training background differs from the traditional BJJ path.

Ultimately, a fighter’s abilities and accomplishments should be judged beyond the color of their belt, with skill and technique being the true indicators of success.

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