Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, announces retirement


Khabib Nurmagomedov knelt down and put his head in his hands. Tears flowed from his eyes. The burden he had carried for three months had been released. The typically stoic champion’s emotions got the better of him.Nurmagomedov, one of the best fighters in mixed martial arts history, submitted Justin Gaethje – who many said would be Nurmagomedov’s toughest test – via a triangular choke 1 minute, 34 seconds from the second round Saturday in the main event of UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.

It was Nurmagomedov’s first fight since his father and head coach Abdulmanap died in July of complications from COVID-19. And subsequently, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.

Nurmagomedov, 32, said his mother didn’t want him to compete without his father, but he told her it would be his last fight.

“I promised him it would be my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “If I give my word, I must follow this. ”

Nurmagomedov put the finishing touches on his career by taking down Gaethje, applying the triangular choke, tightening him up with Gaethje becoming completely unconscious. Nurmagomedov’s triangular submission finish was only the third in UFC title history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The victory unified the UFC lightweight title.

Nurmagomedov has said he has no interest in fighting the winner of a proposed January bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov said he had already suffocated the two men. He left his gloves in the center of the Octagon before leaving.

“Today I mean it was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “… It was my father’s dream. What else? ”

He then posted a message on Instagram thanking his father:

ESPN ranked Nurmagomedov as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, with Gaethje at No. 8. In the lightweight division, ESPN has Nurmagomedov and Gaethje at No. 1 and 2, respectively. Nurmagomedov arrived as the UFC lightweight champion, and Gaethje was the interim champion.

“I know he made his dad so proud,” Gaethje said.

After the fight, Nurmagomedov thanked the UFC and several top executives, but he had a request. “I only know one thing I want from the UFC: you have to [rank me as the] No. 1 pound for pound in the world, because I deserve it. ”

The fight took place without fans at the Flash Forum on Yas Island, which the UFC dubbed “Fight Island,” the international home of the promotion during the pandemic in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Gaethje won the first round on the cards of judges Sal D’Amato and Ben Cartlidge. He landed some tough combinations in the round, although Nurmagomedov kept the pressure on, put in a good shot and landed an out at the end of the round. The round ended with Nurmagomedov working for an armband submission. Judge Derek Cleary scored the first for Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov (29-0) remained undefeated, and the win ties him to BJ Penn and Benson Henderson with the most defenses in UFC lightweight title history (three). The native of Dagestan in Russia has victories over former champions McGregor, Poirier and Rafael dos Anjos. Nurmagomedov is a perfect 13-0 in the UFC, only the second fighter after Anderson Silva to start a career in the UFC with 13 straight wins.

Gaethje (22-3) was on a four-game winning streak and defeated Tony Ferguson to win the interim UFC lightweight title at UFC 249 in May. The Arizona native hadn’t made a decision in six years, with nine KO / TKO wins in that time. Gaethje, 31, is the former lightweight World Series of Fighting champion.

“I felt alive,” Gaethje said. “That’s why I’m stepping in here, man. I ask my coaches if they are ready to feel alive every time I walk in here.

UFC President Dana White said she was told Nurmagomedov fought with a broken foot.

“What this guy went through we are all lucky to see him fight tonight,” White said. “… Apparently he was in the hospital and he broke his foot three weeks ago. So he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken. That’s what his corner told me. ”

“He’s the toughest human being on the planet. He is the # 1 pound for pound fighter in the world. ”

White said he also believed Nurmagomedov when he said he retired.

“He’s the meanest mother on the planet. “


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