UFC 254: Emotional Khabib announces retirement after beating Gaethje
Khabib Nurmagomedov unified the lightweight division on Saturday against Justin Gaethje but then announced his retirement.
An emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight division at UFC 254.
Khabib, the unbeaten champion, was fighting for the first time since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in July.
Abdulmanap passed away following complications with coronavirus and his son, who had defeated Dustin Poirier in his previous bout in September 2019, was reportedly initially reluctant to fight again.
But Khabib returned to action in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and swiftly defeated interim champion Gaethje in a dominant display, winning by technical submission with a triangle chokehold in the second round.
Gaethje consoled Khabib as he burst into tears following the fight and, still in the Octagon, the 29-0 Russian made an immediate announcement on his future.
"Today I want to say this was my last fight," he said. "There's no way I'm going to come here without my father.
"When UFC comes to me about Justin, I spoke with my mother for three days. She didn't want me to fight without father.
"I promised this is going to be my last fight. If I give my word, I have to follow this."
Khabib added: "The only thing I want from the UFC is to put me as number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I deserve this.
"It was my father's dream. What else? Conor [McGregor] and Dustin are going to fight - I choked out both of them. I'm not interested in this."
WHERE WAS THE FIGHT WON?
Khabib put Gaethje under pressure from the outset and was effective with the jab, although the interim champ utilised leg kicks well during the opening five minutes. The American sought to continue with the same tactic, but Khabib, who took his opponent to the ground late in the first, responded in stunning fashion. He brought an end to the contest with a minute and 34 seconds remaining in the round.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Discussion of Khabib's potential "GOAT" status dominated the pre-fight news conference and those conversations will only increase following his retirement. Meanwhile, there is an opening for a new lightweight champion - and Gaethje will hope to be in the mix.
THEY SAID WHAT?
Gaethje insisted he was "ready for the next one whenever" but focused most of his post-fight comments on praise for Khabib. "The only reason I stuck here was to give this man his praises," he said. "He took me down. He is so strong. I know he did his father proud."
NEW RECORDS (W-L-D):
REST OF THE CARD
Robert Whittaker landed a big win over Jared Cannonier in the co-main event, prevailing by unanimous decision.
"I'm going straight home and putting up the Christmas tree," said the enthusiastic Whittaker. "I'm super stoked."
There were also wins for Alexander Volkov, Phil Hawes, Lauren Murphy and Magomed Ankalaev.