UFC

Emotional Khabib announces retirement after beating Gaethje at UFC 254

By Sports Desk October 24, 2020

An emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight division at UFC 254.

Khabib, the unbeaten champion, was fighting for the first time since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in July. 

Abdulmanap passed away following complications with coronavirus and his son, who had defeated Dustin Poirier in his previous bout in September 2019, was reportedly initially reluctant to fight again. 

But Khabib returned to action in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and swiftly defeated interim champion Gaethje in a dominant display, winning by technical submission with a triangle chokehold in the second round. 

Gaethje consoled Khabib as he burst into tears following the fight and, still in the Octagon, the 29-0 Russian made an immediate announcement on his future. 

"Today I want to say this was my last fight," he said. "There's no way I'm going to come here without my father.

"When UFC comes to me about Justin, I spoke with my mother for three days. She didn't want me to fight without father. 

"I promised this is going to be my last fight. If I give my word, I have to follow this." 

Khabib added: "The only thing I want from the UFC is to put me as number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I deserve this. 

"It was my father's dream. What else? Conor [McGregor] and Dustin are going to fight - I choked out both of them. I'm not interested in this." 

It was a brutal display from Khabib, who grabbed Gaethje in the second and choked his opponent out when the referee failed to spot his attempts to tap out. 
 

WHERE WAS THE FIGHT WON? 

Khabib put Gaethje under pressure from the outset and was effective with the jab, although the interim champ utilised leg kicks well during the opening five minutes. The American sought to continue with the same tactic, but Khabib, who took his opponent to the ground late in the first, responded in stunning fashion. He brought an end to the contest with a minute and 34 seconds remaining in the round. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? 

Discussion of Khabib's potential "GOAT" status dominated the pre-fight news conference and those conversations will only increase following his retirement. Meanwhile, there is an opening for a new lightweight champion - and Gaethje will hope to be in the mix. 

THEY SAID WHAT? 

Gaethje insisted he was "ready for the next one whenever" but focused most of his post-fight comments on praise for Khabib. "The only reason I stuck here was to give this man his praises," he said. "He took me down. He is so strong. I know he did his father proud." 

NEW RECORDS (W-L-D): 

Khabib: 29-0-0 

Gaethje: 22-3-0 

REST OF THE CARD 

Robert Whittaker landed a big win over Jared Cannonier in the co-main event, prevailing by unanimous decision. 

"I'm going straight home and putting up the Christmas tree," said the enthusiastic Whittaker. "I'm super stoked." 

There were also wins for Alexander Volkov, Phil Hawes, Lauren Murphy and Magomed Ankalaev. 

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    Conor McGregor is still hopeful Khabib Nurmagomedov can be tempted back to the Octagon but says he should be stripped of the UFC lightweight title if he refuses to return.

    Nurmagomedov called time on his career after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October but is in Abu Dhabi to attend the lightweight fight between McGregor and Dustin Poirier on Saturday.

    Dana White met with the Russian, who he said was looking for "something spectacular" if he was to go back on his decision to hang up his gloves.

    However, Nurmagomedov subsequently said fighting was not in his plans as he did not want to disappoint his mother, to whom he promised Gaethje would be his last opponent due to the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap.

    Asked about those remarks at a news conference to preview UFC 257, White responded: "I've told you guys. We'll see what happens this week."

    McGregor, who was submitted by Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in a fight that was overshadowed by a post-bout melee outside the Octagon, added "we'll get him", before claiming that the lightweight title will soon be up for grabs.

    "I'd make the case if that man [Nurmagomedov] is continuing to dodge this and dodge the commitment of competing again, the title should be stripped and we should be engaging in a title fight," said McGregor.

    "I'm sure it'll happen after this bout. I'm interested to hear what the excuses are … but I predict a title strip.

    "As long as we fight again there'll be no issue [between us], that's it. If he continues to run, I'm not sure. We'll see what happens.

    "The world knows this fight is not over, this war is not over. The sport needs it to happen. I'm not gonna chase it if he doesn't want it and I'll keep my calm and move on."

    The fight with Poirier will be just McGregor's third at lightweight, having returned from a second retirement at welterweight when he took on Donald Cerrone in January last year.

    The former featherweight and lightweight champion claimed to have retired again, finding it difficult to fulfil his three-fight plan for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he is now anticipating a long run at 155 pounds.

    "I have not had that many fights at 155 in the UFC and I'm eager to put in a stint, to get a run going like I did with the featherweights," said McGregor.

    "I think I went seven or eight fights within a year and a half. That's what I'm looking for here if they can match me up. This is the best I've ever been for sure, and I'm at 155 pounds. But if I go back to 170 you best believe that'll be the best I've ever felt also."

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    "I think it's a myth. Obviously the first [Nate] Diaz fight I went from featherweight and a month or so later I was at welterweight, that's obviously gonna have an impact and then there were other issues," he said.

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    McGregor added: "I have a million shots. I have so many weapons in my arsenal and they're all fine-tuned at this time. I'm in a phenomenal place and I look forward to going out and showcasing, painting a beautiful picture."

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    Khabib Nurmagomedov could be tempted to make a comeback if a lightweight rival impresses him at UFC 257, Dana White has revealed. 

    The undefeated Khabib announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight division at UFC 254 last year, his first outing since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

    However, White raised the prospect that the Russian may return for one more bout - if he likes what he sees out of a potential opponent next week. 

    That includes former foes Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, who meet in the main event on Fight Island. Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler do battle on the same bill, with the winner potentially coming under consideration. 

    Charles Oliveira is also an option, having apparently grabbed Khabib's attention during his victory over Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 in December. 

    "The thing with him is, when you make the decision to retire, I knew he made the decision under unbelievable emotional stress," White told the media after Max Holloway's victory over Calvin Kattar in Abu Dhabi. 

    "His dad had died, he got hurt during that camp and couldn't train right, couldn't cut weight right. All the things he went through and then he went out and performed how he performed, then made that decision that night.  

    "Listen, you're not tying anything up. Go home, spend some time with your family. Heal up, think about it. 

    "Then he and I got together, and he said: 'I want to see if somebody really blows me away and impresses me next week'. 

    "You've got the co-main event and the main event, while Oliveira looked awesome against Tony Ferguson - that's an interesting fight for him. 

    "We will see what these guys do this weekend. I think it's fun - do you guys not want to see Khabib fight again? Hopefully, he sticks around and does one more." 

    However, White made clear that Georges St-Pierre is not on the shortlist of potential opponents. 

    "No, GSP never came up. He's not interested in that fight and, from what I hear today, neither is GSP. That's over," he said.

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