Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 and announces his emotional retirement
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Pranith J Rao
October 25, 2020
Abu Dhabi: The biggest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout of the year pitted Khabib Nurmagomedov against Justin Gaethje for the 155-pound championship, leading to Nurmagomedov’s victory at Abu Dhabi on 24 October, 2020. The Russian champion, also known as the ‘The Eagle’, defeated the interim champion, Justin Gaethje, claiming his 29th victory and remaining undefeated till date. The 32-year-old Russian Champion announced his UFC retirement in the octagon.
Khabib Nurmagomedov gets emotional after his final victory against Justin Gaethje
This was Nurmagomedov’s first fight since his father and head coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died due to Covid-19 complications in July. Three days before headlining UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi, Nurmagomedov told reporters that he had planned to retire as the undefeated, undisputed UFC lightweight champion.
According to New York Times, after his victory, Nurmagomedov took the microphone during a post-fight interview and said he was leaving the sport. The fighter honoured the memory of his father quoting, “No way I’m going to come here without my father”. He also posted a photo on Instagram thanking his father. Many believed that Nurmagomedov would chase his 30-0 victory before beholding his retirement, the emotional champion asks his team-mates to cut his gloves off before retiring.
Nurmagomedov said that when the UFC had called him for his match against Gaethje, he talked to his mother for three days. “She didn’t want me to fight without father, but I promised her it was going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here” Nurmagomedov said, as reported by RT. Adding onto which he said that, “I know only one thing I want from the UFC—Tuesday, you guys have to put me number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world because I deserve this”.
Nurmagomedov ended the last fight of his career with a triangle choke, completely immobilising Gaethje. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, Nurmagomedov’s triangle-choke submission finish was the third ever in the UFC title history. Dana White—UFC President—told a post-fight news conference that Nurmagomedov fought with a broken foot. “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” said White, as reported by Russian website iz. He concludes saying that, “He is the toughest human being on the planet. He’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world” and he also believes Nurmagomedov when he says he’s retired.
Conor McGregor, the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, has accepted the terms of Dana White for a rematch against Dustin Poirier to mark his UFC return on January, 2021 and Nurmagomedov said that neither man could change his mind from retiring. According to The Guardian, “Dustin and Conor are going to fight in January. I choked out both of them. I’m not interested” said Nurmagomedov. ESPN has ranked Nurmagomedov and Gaethje at Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, as reported by Dailyhunt.
Nurmagomedov’s victory ties him with BJ Penn and Benson Henderson for the most title defences in UFC lightweight history (three) and he becomes the second fighter to start off the UFC career with 13 consecutive wins after Anderson Silva. Earlier this year, Nurmagomedov flayed to face Tony Ferguson in April at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the match was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was eventually moved to Jacksonville, Fla. Gaethje replaced Nurmagomedov since he was unable to return to the United States from Russia because of the pandemic and travel restrictions.
Earlier this January, when Conor McGregor defeated Donald Cerrone, Dana White spoke openly for a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor which could land at the O2 Arena in London, or AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Sources: (ESPN, Insidesport )
Edited by Shreya Gupta and Aditya Das