Khabib Nurmagomedov kneeled down and put his head in his hands. Tears streamed from his eyes. The burden he had been carrying for the past three months had been released. The typically stoic champion’s emotions got the better of him.
Nurmagomedov, one of the best fighters in mixed martial arts history, submitted Justin Gaethje — whom many said would be Nurmagomedov’s toughest test — via triangle choke at 1 minute, 34 seconds of the second round Saturday in the main event of UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.
This was Nurmagomedov’s first fight since his father and head coach Abdulmanap died in July from complications of COVID-19. And afterward, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
Nurmagomedov, 32, said his mother did not want him to compete without his father, but he told her this would be his last fight.
“I promised her this was gonna be my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “If I give my word, I have to follow this.”
Nurmagomedov put the finishing touches on his career as he took Gaethje down, applied the triangle choke, cinched it in with Gaethje going completely unconscious. Nurmagomedov’s triangle-choke submission finish was just the third ever in UFC title history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The victory unified the UFC lightweight title.
Nurmagomedov said he has no interest in fighting the winner of a proposed January bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov said he has already choked both men out. He left his gloves in the center of the Octagon before departing.
“Today, I want to say this was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “… It was my father’s dream. What else?”
ESPN has Nurmagomedov ranked as the top pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, with Gaethje at No. 8. in the lightweight division, ESPN has Nurmagomedov and Gaethje at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Nurmagomedov came in as the UFC lightweight champion, and Gaethje was the interim champ.
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SOURCE: ESPN, Marc Raimondi