Khabib Nurmagomedov extended his exemplary career record as he retained his lightweight title at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi – then announced his retirement.
Russian Nurmagomedov, 32, defeated interim champ Justin Gaetje with a triangle throttle submission in the second round to claim the 29th victory and unify the 155-lb title.
Nurmagomedov said he honored the memory of his father, trainer and mentor Abdul Manab, who died in July after complications from Covid-19.
Although many believed Nurmagomedov would chase his 30th professional win before contemplating retirement, the passionate champ asked his teammates to cut off his gloves before quitting.
He said, “This was my last battle. I cannot come here without my father.” “It was the first time after what happened with my dad, when the UFC called me about (fighting) Justin, I talked to my mom for three days.
“She didn’t want me to fight without my father, but I promised her that it would be my last fight, and if I give my word, I must follow that. My last fight was here.”
“I know only one thing I want from the UFC: On Tuesday, you have to put me first as a pound-for-pound fighter in the world because I deserve it.
“The undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion, 13-0, 13 in UFC, 29th in my MMA career. I think I deserve it.”
Nurmagomedov ‘broke his foot three weeks ago’
“What this guy has been through, we’re all lucky to have seen him fight tonight,” said UFC President Dana White. “I hear rumors about other things I didn’t know about. It looks like he was in the hospital. I broke his foot three weeks ago. So he had a broken toe and a bone in his foot – that’s what Angle was telling me. She didn’t tell anyone.”
“He is one of the cruelest humans on this planet and he is the number one fighter in the world, and seriously, you have to start by putting him in goat mode with anyone else you think is a goat.”
UFC 254, which was the final event for the sport’s second mission on Yas Island, saw the return of Nurmagomedov, who was unable to defend his title earlier this year due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in Russia.
At the time, Nurmagomedov was scheduled to face rival Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, but Ferguson instead faced Gaethje, and was stopped in the fifth round as The Highlight secured the interim title and rose to first place.
Gaethje was expected to pose problems for Nurmagomedov, with his team wrestling experience being a potential antidote to the champion’s stifling wrestling style.
Nurmagomedov dominated the first round with a high-pressure approach, then advanced Gaithy in the second.
Nurmagomedov added the name Gaethje to the list of defeated opponents which also includes Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Al Iaquinta and Edson Barboza.
Nurmagomedov thanked Geithje, who had arranged for his parents to travel internationally for the first time in their lives to watch him fight for the title, and praised the man who helped him four years earlier gain weight as he struggled to lose the final. A few pounds for his short fight with Daryl Horscher.
Nurmagomedov said, “Thank you very much, Justin. 2016 I remember when I lowered the weight, you helped me a lot. Thank you, brother.”
“I know how great you are. I know how to take care of your relatives. I know a lot of things about you.
“Be close to your people, because you never know what will happen tomorrow. You never know.”
Whitaker wins again while Wood receives a $ 50,000 reward
In tonight’s joint main event, former Australian Middleweight Champion Robert Whitaker has continued their comeback since losing their title to Israel Adesanya last October by beating American Jared Cannon to return to the title race at £ 185.
Britain’s Nathaniel Wood at Bantam welter was also playing a role, but he was knocked out of the scorecards after a back-and-forth battle with American Casey Kenny in the initial card. However, the 140-pound weight match was awarded “Fight of the Night” medals, with both men receiving $ 50,000 in bonuses for their performances.