Khabib Nuramgomedov once again showed the world why he’s arguably MMA’s greatest of all time at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi with another successful title defense. According to “The Eagle,” it was also his last.
The lightweight champ and Dagestani wrestling specialist put interim champ Justin Gaethje to sleep via triangle choke at 1:34 in the second round, improving his undefeated record to an unprecedented 29-0. Immediately after stoppage, an overwhelmed Nurmagomedov fell to the center of the Octagon and began weeping with his face in the mat. In a touching display of sportsmanship, Gaethje knelt down and embraced Nurmagomedov, who had just competed for the first time since losing his father and head coach died due to coronavirus complications in July.
Nurmagomedov then announced his retirement from the sport in his immediate post-fight interview. He had promised his mom that the bout would be his last.
“I promised her this was gonna be my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “If I give my word, I have to follow this. Today, I want to say this was my last fight. It was my father’s dream. What else?”
Coming off of a four-fight win streak, Gathje was widely considered to be Nuramgomedov’s toughest test yet. The Arizona native and former World Series of Fighting champ remained humble in defeat during his Octagon interview. “The only reason I stayed in here was to give this man praises. Whether he was in a bad place or not, he did what he had to do. He’s very strong. I know he made his father so proud.”
Nurmagomedov also called for the UFC to name him as the No.1 men’s pound-for-pound fighter across all divisions. ESPN reports that this victory ties him with legends BJ Penn and Benson Henderson with the most title defenses in UFC lightweight history (4). At press time, he was second only to light heavyweight Jon Jones on the UFC’s rankings.
Meanwhile, former fighter, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier bestowed Nurmabomedov with the GOAT title.
Other current and former UFC stars, including Nuramomedov’s bitter rival Conor McGregor, reacted respectfully to the performance and retirement announcement.