Ageless Wonder Returns to Challenge Father Time & Loyd Galindo
Last November, the Canadian combat scene suffered the loss of respected veteran Nabil “The Thrill” Khatib to retirement. Khatib had a venerable kickboxing career and faced off against many well-known names in the MMA realm, including UFC veterans Gideon Ray, Carlos Newton, Shonie Carter and Mark Holst among others. He has been called “the Canadian Randy Couture” for his ability to compete at a high level into his forties, and his dedication in training the next generation of would-be fighters.
It’s only fitting that like Couture, after hanging up the gloves Khatib became restless in retirement and is coming back to compete a little less than a year after walking away from the sport.
“Maybe I just jumped the gun a little bit. It may have been a combination of a slight depression where I just felt I didn’t have any more to give and the fact that I lost my last fight,” Khatib said. “It has been a few fights in a row that I’ve lost, so I got the feeling it was time to hang it up. But I feel like I have more to give. I have more in me to show in my sport and my skill level. I still have the drive, I still have some potential so I’m going to keep going and see what happens. This sport is just too hard to walk away from.”
Khatib attributes part of the losing streak that ended his career to putting too much pressure on himself. He had very clear-cut goals in what he wanted to accomplish, namely win a title and land himself a UFC fight. Failure to meet those goals resulted in him piling more pressure on himself in a vicious cycle. Now having taken some time away, he re-renters the sport invigorated, yet more relaxed.
“It’s easier on me this way. I don’t stress myself out like when I try to get somewhere too quick. It’s easier to deal with, you know,” Khatib said.
Welcoming Khatib back to the cage will be the Challenge MMA promotion, which is holding their second event in Montreal on Saturday, August 17th – a date that coincides with Khatib’s 44th birthday! The card is populated with fighters from the Tristar gym and headlined by onetime UFC Middleweight title contender David “The Crow” Loiseau’s return to the cage. Khatib’s opponent will be Loyd Galindo, a product of France that Khatib admits he does not know much about. With information on his opponent scarce, Khatib will rely on his Tristar work to see him through the day. His sparring partners for this fight have included Loiseau and Alex Garcia, who will also be on the card Saturday night. Khatib admits that Garcia has given him fits on the ground.
Perhaps Khatib’s most dangerous opponent is not Galindo or any other man that stands across the cage from him, but Father Time. Age is an undeniable factor in life and there are few places where people age less gracefully than combat sports. MMA fans saw the most recent example of that last weekend when kickboxing legend and World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo decided to step back in the cage and lost to unheralded Dave Huckaba in a performance that was difficult to watch for longtime fans of Sefo’s. Khatib insists that worrying about being the guy that hung on too long is the farthest thing from his mind.
“It’s not even an issue for me right now. I still have the fire in me and I don’t feel that I’m sloppy when I’m fighting. I’m possibly not as powerful as some of these younger guys but I still think I have good technical fights behind me and I think that I can still push ahead for a little while,” Khatib says. “As soon as I start to feel like I’m sloppy or I start to feel that I have no more adrenaline in the ring when I’m in there because I’m in there too often or something, then that’s probably when I start thinking about hanging up the gloves for real.”
In the interim, Khatib remains focused on one fight at a time and continuing to lead his Ottawa-based Team Bushido. A proud Lebanese-Canadian, he even hopes to go to the Middle East and train some prospects there. He insists that there are a lot of Arabs with incredible physical skills who blossom as soon as they get the proper coaching, singling out Tristar teammate Nordine Taleb as an example. When asked if the Middle East could be the next area to experience a boom in MMA, the wily veteran considers it then laughs:
“Do you have to say the word boom when you say Arab and MMA?”
Khatib takes his wit and wisdom back into the cage this Saturday night at Challenge MMA 2.