Fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje during UFC 254 on Saturday, taking his MMA record to 29-0. He defended his lightweight title and then immediately dropped surprising news. Nurmagomedov said that this bout would be the last in his UFC career.
"This was my last fight," Nurmagomedov said following his victory. "There's no way I'm going to come here without my father. ... After what happened with my father — when UFC called me about Justin — I talked with my mother [for] three days, 'should I go fight without my father?' I promised her it was gonna be my last fight. And if I give my word, I have to follow it." Nurmagomedov further showed his seriousness by leaving his gloves in the octagon before walking away.
"Dominate every fight. Retire undefeated and undisputed. Alhamdulillah [praise be to God]," one fan commented on Twitter after hearing the news. Several others chimed in with similar comments. They praised Nurmagomedov for becoming a champion and defending his title three times en route to an undefeated record.
"He’s definitely #1 pound for pound!! Congratulations on a great career," wrote featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski on Saturday. There were countless UFC fighters weighing in and praising Nurmagomedov after they learned that he is walking away from the sport. Many referred to him as the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) while others said that he has an unmatched legacy in the sport.
Nurmagomedov lost his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, in July due to COVID-19 complications. The championship-winning coach had been placed in a medically-induced coma in May after reportedly contracting pneumonia. Doctors diagnosed him with the coronavirus while he was in the hospital. Nurmagomedov also later underwent heart surgery for a preexisting condition further complicated by the virus.
Nurmagomedov's father passed away as he was stuck in Russia due to a travel ban. The undefeated fighter had a bout scheduled with Tony Ferguson, but it fell through. Gaethje stepped in and secured the win, as well as the interim lightweight title. He then issued a challenge to Nurmagomedov and said that there was no one else he wanted to face.
The two men ultimately entered the octagon on Saturday in the main event of UFC 254. Nurmagomedov secured the victory during the second of five rounds. He took Gaethje to the ground and then used a triangle choke to put the interim titleholder to sleep. He then announced his retirement and walked away from the UFC.