Khabib Nurmagomedov prolonged his excellent skilled document as he retained his light-weight title at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi – then introduced his retirement.
Russian Nurmagomedov, 32, defeated interim champion Justin Gaethje with a second-round triangle choke submission to say a twenty ninth victory and unify the 155lb title.
Nurmagomedov mentioned he had honoured the reminiscence of his father, coach and mentor Abdulmanap, who died in July following issues arising from Covid-19.
Regardless of many believing Nurmagomedov would chase his thirtieth skilled win earlier than considering retirement, the emotional champion requested his team-mates to chop his gloves off earlier than quitting.
“It was my final struggle. There is no approach I’ll come right here with out my father,” he mentioned. “It was the primary time after what occurred with my father, when the UFC referred to as me about (preventing) Justin, I talked with my mom for 3 days.
“She did not need me to struggle with out father, however I promised her it was going to be my final struggle, and if I give my phrase, I’ve to comply with this. It was my final struggle right here.
“I do know just one factor I would like from the UFC: Tuesday, you guys must put me primary pound-for-pound fighter on the earth as a result of I deserve this.
“Undisputed UFC light-weight champion, 13-0, 13 within the UFC, 29 in my professional MMA profession. I feel I deserve this.”
Nurmagomedov ‘broke his foot three weeks in the past’
“What this man’s been by way of, we’re all fortunate we obtained to see him struggle tonight,” mentioned UFC president Dana White. “I am listening to rumours of different issues that I did not learn about. Apparently he was within the hospital. He broke his foot three weeks in the past. So he has two damaged toes and a bone in his foot that is damaged – that is what his nook was telling me. By no means informed anyone.
“He is without doubt one of the hardest human beings on the planet and he is the number-one pound-for-pound fighter on the earth and, critically, you must begin placing him up there with GOAT standing with whoever else you assume is the GOAT.”
UFC 254, which marked the ultimate occasion of the game’s second stint on Yas Island, noticed the return of Nurmagomedov, who was unable to defend his title earlier this 12 months due to Covid-19 journey restrictions in Russia.
On the time, Nurmagomedov was as a result of face rival Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, however Ferguson as an alternative confronted Gaethje, and was stopped within the fifth spherical as ‘The Spotlight’ claimed the interim title and stepped into the number-one contender spot.
Gaethje was anticipated to pose issues for Nurmagomedov, together with his collegiate wrestling expertise thought of a doable antidote to the champion’s smothering grappling fashion.
However Nurmagomedov dominated the primary spherical together with his high-pressure strategy, then submitted Gaethje within the second.
Nurmagomedov added Gaethje’s identify to an inventory of crushed opponents that additionally contains Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Al Iaquinta and Edson Barboza.
Nurmagomedov thanked Gaethje, who had organized for his mother and father to fly internationally for the primary time of their lives to look at him struggle for the title, and paid tribute to a person who 4 years in the past helped him make weight when he was struggling to lose the ultimate few kilos for his short-notice struggle with Darrell Horcher.
“Thanks a lot, Justin. 2016 I bear in mind after I lower weight, you helped me loads. Thanks, brother,” Nurmagomedov mentioned.
“I understand how you’re a nice man. I understand how you maintain your shut individuals. I do know lots of issues about you.
“Be shut together with your individuals, since you by no means know what is going on to occur tomorrow. You by no means know.”
Whittaker wins once more whereas Wooden nets $50,000 bonus
Within the night time’s co-main occasion, Australian former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker continued his return to kind since dropping his title to Israel Adesanya final October by outpointing American Jared Cannonier to maneuver again into title competition at 185 kilos.
British bantamweight Nathaniel Wooden was additionally in motion, however was edged out on the scorecards after a back-and-forth battle with American Casey Kenney on the preliminary card. Nonetheless, their 140-pound catchweight match-up was awarded “Battle of the Evening” honours, with each males receiving $50,000 bonuses for his or her respective performances.