Khabib Nurmagomedov retires from MMA after beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254

Russian moved to 29-0 before tearfully leaving the sport, three months after his father and head coach died from coronavirus complications

Alex Pattle
Sunday 25 October 2020 00:48 BST
Khabib Nurmagomedov announces his retirement from MMA
Khabib Nurmagomedov announces his retirement from MMA (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired from MMA after beating Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254 to retain his lightweight title.

Khabib’s father and head coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died in July following complications from coronavirus, and the Russian champion said that had played a key role in his decision to leave the sport.

Breaking down in tears after his second-round submission win, which was secured with a triangle choke, 32-year-old Khabib said: “God give me everything, and with my father, I love you so much… It was my last fight.

“No way I’m gonna come here [again] without my father. It was the first time after what happened with my father.

“When UFC called me about Justin, I talked with my mother for three days. She didn’t want me to go fight without father, but I promised her: ‘It’s gonna be my last fight.’ And if I I give my word, I have to follow this.

“It was my last fight, here. I know only one thing I want from UFC: You guys have to put me as No1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this. UFC undisputed lightweight champion, I think I deserve it.

“I want to say thank you to Lorenzo [Fertita], Dana [White], Hunter [Campbell]. Thank you to all this UFC team, everybody around the world. Thank you so much, Justin – 2016, I remember when I cut weight, you helped me a lot. Thank you, brother. This is a fight; without the cage, I know you’re a great man. I know how you take care of your close people, I know a lot of things about you.

“Be close with your parents, because one day it’s gonna happen, something. You never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow.

“Thank you, coach, I love you so much, my team-mates. Today is my last fight here in UFC. It was my father’s dream, what else?

“[Conor] McGregor and [Dustin] Poirier fight in January, I choked out both of them, I’m not interested in this...”

Khabib retires with an undefeated record of 29-0.

His old rival McGregor, whom Khabib submitted in a lightweight title defence in October 2018, wrote on Twitter: “Good performance Khabib. I will carry on.

“Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors.”

After a tense start to the main event, Khabib landed his first takedown at the end of the first round, securing a double-leg against the cage.

Khabib broke down in tears after his win (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Early in the second, ‘The Eagle’ secured another takedown and quickly moved to mount position. From there, he seemed to be seeking an armbar, but ultimately locked in a triangle choke.

Gaethje attempted to pick up and slam Khabib, but failed to muster the strength. After referee Jason Herzog missed an initial tap, Gaethje appeared to pass out in the hold. 

It was later revealed that two of the three judges had given Gaethje the first round. It marked just the second time in his career that Khabib had lost a round, following the third frame against McGregor.

After the main event had conluded, UFC president White revealed Khabib had apparently broken his foot just weeks before the fight.

White, who said he could “smell” an upset as Khabib didn’t look right, said: “What this guy has been through, we’re all lucky that we got to see him fight tonight.

“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.”

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