Khabib Nurmagomedov prolonged his good 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 problems 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 not any manner 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 need from the UFC: Tuesday, you guys need to 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 believe I deserve this.”
Nurmagomedov ‘broke his foot three weeks in the past’
“What this man’s been by means of, we’re all fortunate we received to see him struggle tonight,” mentioned UFC president Dana White. “I am listening to rumours of different issues that I did not find out 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 advised anyone.
“He is among the hardest human beings on the planet and he is the number-one pound-for-pound fighter on the earth and, severely, it’s a must to 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 attributable to 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-about a potential antidote to the champion’s smothering grappling fashion.
However Nurmagomedov dominated the primary spherical together with his high-pressure method, then submitted Gaethje within the second.
Nurmagomedov added Gaethje’s title 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 once I minimize weight, you helped me rather a lot. Thanks, brother,” Nurmagomedov mentioned.
“I understand how you’re a nice man. I understand how you care for your shut individuals. I do know quite a lot of issues about you.
“Be shut along 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 evening’s co-main occasion, Australian former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker continued his return to type since shedding 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. Nevertheless, their 140-pound catchweight match-up was awarded “Struggle of the Evening” honours, with each males receiving $50,000 bonuses for his or her respective performances.