Just like that, it’s all over. Khabib Nurmagamedov is no longer the UFC lightweight champion. But it’s not because he lost to Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. In fact, the undefeated Russian put on one of the most aggressive performances of his entire career as he defended his title for the third time.
The pair fought in the main event of the event in Abu Dhabi. Much was made of how the death of Khabib’s father Abdulmanap would affect his mindset. Furthermore, many thought that Gaethje had the tools to beat Khabib. An excellent college wrestler, Gaethje also possesses frightening power.
But in the end, Khabib was just too good. He choked out his American opponent in the second round to extend his record to 29-0. Then, he stunned the world by announcing his retirement. Everybody expected him to take at least one more fight, but he decided that the time was right to finish up. Check out the highlights below of this momentous day in MMA.
— BroBible (@BroBible) October 24, 2020
The big question was whether or not Gaethje could shut down Khabib’s elite wrestling. He was successful early on as he engaged a lot of lateral movement and chopped at the Dagestani’s legs. The leg kicks were evidently a significant part of the gameplan because Trevor Wittman urgently told Gaethje to continue with them. However, Khabib came forward with extreme aggression and walked Gaethje down.
This put Gaethje under pressure and he almost ran away from the champion at times. Gaethje did land some shots as Khabib came forward but nothing to hurt the champion. Finally, Khabib took him down and hunted for the armbar at the end of the round. But the bell rang and it went into the second round.
Nurmagamedov continued to come forward in round two. Gaethje had success with leg kicks but ‘The Eagle’ was relentless. He took ‘The Highlight’ down and locked in a triangle choke. Gaethje tapped but referee Jason Herzog missed it and the former interim champion went to sleep. Finally, the stoppage came and Khabib won again.
— ufcespanol (@UFCEspanol) October 24, 2020
The champion was extremely emotional after the fight in a manner reminiscent of Michael Jordan after the death of his father. He laid down his gloves and announced his retirement because he doesn’t want to continue without his father. Furthermore, he promised his mother that he would walk away.
“Today, this was my last fight,” he said. “Ain’t no way I’m going to come here without my fathe. She don’t (want me) to go fight without father, but I promised her it’s going to be my last fight,” he said in a post-match interview. “And if I give my word, I have to follow this.”
— UFC (@ufc) October 24, 2020
“He is one of the toughest human beings on the planet,” UFC President Dan White said. “He’s the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world and, seriously, you have to start putting him up there at GOAT status.”