Daniel Cormier insisted Khabib Nurmagomedov's retirement is "real" and the unbeaten UFC champion will not return to the Octagon.

Khabib announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje to defend his lightweight championship at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Khabib (29-0) was fighting for the first time since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in July.

Khabib was overcome by emotion as he burst into tears post-fight and former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Cormier spoke about the Russian star's decision amid his mother's desire to stop.

"This is real," Cormier, a close friend of Khabib's, told ESPN. "Khabib doesn't lie. Khabib doesn't play 'I'm retiring and I'm coming back.'"

"When he said that, and he said, 'I give my word, and that's the only thing I have,' I was like, 'He's done'.

"He's never lied to me. Maybe he has messed around. We've had fun. We've played jokes. We've done a lot of things. But the one thing he doesn't do is lie.

"And I don't think he would lie to his mother, especially in the face of what they're dealing with as a family."

Khabib swiftly defeated interim champion Gaethje in a dominant display, winning by technical submission with a triangle chokehold in the second round. 

"He told me when he was watching the interviews over the course of the week, he saw that Justin said that he would never tap," Cormier, who retired following his loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 252 in August, said.

"He was going to do the armbar, but he had heard Justin saying all week that he would never tap, and he didn't want to hurt him in front of his parents. So he went to the triangle and just kind of put him to sleep."

Conor McGregor was among a host of UFC greats to take to social media to congratulate Khabib Nurmagomedov after the lightweight champion announced his retirement.

Khabib was fighting at UFC 254 for the first time since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in July following complications with coronavirus.

The Russian dominated interim champ Justin Gaethje with a second-round technical submission in Abu Dhabi to unify the division but then revealed it would be his last bout.

Khabib, who is 29-0, said he had promised his mother he would not continue his career without his father.

As the UFC reeled from the news, a number of its leading names sent messages to Khabib - including rival McGregor.

"Good performance @TeamKhabib," he wrote. "I will carry on.

"Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors."

Jon Jones, described by Dana White as "the greatest ever", added his best wishes, writing: "I want to congratulate Khabib for an outstanding career.

"I know he made his father along with millions of fans around the world incredibly proud today. May God continue to bless him on his journey."

Daniel Cormier said: "Congratulations to the greatest champion in @ufc history.

"What a career, we are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with you my brother. 29-0 undefeated and undisputed."

Daniel Cormier declared it has "been a helluva ride" and paid tribute to victorious opponent Stipe Miocic in a farewell message to UFC.

The legendary Cormier took heavyweight champion Miocic the distance in Saturday's trilogy bout in Las Vegas at UFC 252 but suffered a unanimous decision defeat.

Cormier, who said his vision was impaired by a poke to the eye in the third round, insisted prior to the showdown the fight would be his last, a message he reiterated after his loss.

UFC president Dana White said he doubted the 41-year-old – a former champion in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions – would stay retired.

But Cormier is still sticking with his decision, writing on Twitter: "Thank you all for the love and support. Not what I wanted or expected but it is what it is.

"Congrats to @stipemiocic on a fantastic fight, was an honour and pleasure to share the octagon with you for 50 minutes. Boy did we give 'em a show every time.

"To my team: I love you all to death, you've made so many sacrifices. I hope I made you guys proud. Salina and the kids: thank you for being my motivation. To all the fans: I love you so much. You guys push me to try and be great.

"To @danawhite and the @ufc: I have loved every minute. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. Been a helluva ride, huh?"

Dana White does not believe we have seen the last of Daniel Cormier in the Octagon after his defeat to Stipe Miocic in the main event at UFC 252.

Cormier confirmed his retirement after losing the heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas on Saturday, Miocic securing a unanimous 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 points decision.

The 41-year-old American said he was unable to see out of his left eye after being "poked" by Miocic in what he described as a "very sad" end to his MMA career.

UFC president White suspects Cormier will have a change of heart over his decision to quit.

"I just think Cormier, the way that guy is, the competitor that he is - he says, 'I'm not going out like that.' I don't know, that's my prediction," White said of the former two-division UFC champion.

White added on Twitter: "Thanks for everything @dc_mma I look forward to seeing what the future holds for you."

Cormier was reportedly taken to hospital to get his eye examined but White says the injury cannot be used as an excuse for his defeat in the trilogy battle.

"There were two eye pokes, they both got poked in the eye," said the UFC boss.

"And Cormier, that eye was hurt before the poke. We got a big group text that goes on and I was like, 'There's something wrong with Cormier's eye' and he got poked after that.

"That didn't help. But they both got poked - you can't use that as an excuse."

Daniel Cormier said he was unable to see out of one eye after being "poked" by Stipe Miocic as he ended his career with a "very sad" defeat in the main event at UFC 252.

Miocic retained his heavyweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday, earning a unanimous 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 points victory in the trilogy battle.

Former two-division UFC champion Cormier was reportedly taken to hospital following the eagerly anticipated showdown after suffering damage to his left eye.

The 41-year-old was not happy with the third-round incident that left him with restricted vision.

He said in a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan: "I mean, look at my eye. I couldn't even [expletive] see the rest of the fight. I can't see anything out of my left eye. It's black.

"It is what it is. It doesn't matter. I told Marc [Goddard, the referee] he poked me, but he said he thought it was a punch.

"But after the fight he said, 'Yeah, I saw it on the replay.' I just can't see out of my left eye. It doesn't matter, though. Whatever. It is what it is."

Cormier reiterated the third fight with Miocic would be his last.

He added: "It just sucks, being on the losing end of two big fights and trilogies – it's a very sad position to be in.

"But I will deal with it as I've dealt with things in the past. I'm not interested in fighting for anything but titles, and I don't imagine there's going to be a title in the future.

"So that'll be it for me. I've had a long run. It's been great. I just fought my last fight for a heavyweight championship, and it was a pretty good fight."

So that's it. Daniel Cormier, a two-weight UFC champion, has entered the Octagon for the final time.

Stipe Miocic claimed a unanimous-decision win at UFC 252 in Las Vegas on Saturday, edging a bruising contest to retain the heavyweight championship.

"It sucks, being on the losing end of two big fights and trilogies - it's a very sad position to be in," said Cormier. "But I will deal with it as I've dealt with things in the past.

"I'm not interested in fighting for anything but titles, and I don't imagine there's going to be a title in the future, so that'll be it for me. I've had a long run, it's been great."

The 41-year-old has certainly left a lasting mark on mixed martial arts and so, to mark the end of a memorable career, we take a look back at some of his highs and lows.

LOW: Jones keeps Cormier at bay

Cormier's first attempt at claiming a UFC championship did not go to plan. The former amateur wrestler had an unbeaten 15-0 record when he took on Jon Jones but was beaten by unanimous decision.

The conquered Cormier would never get his revenge against Jones. The pair met again in 2017 with Jones this time winning via knockout, although the result was later overturned as the winner tested positive for steroid metabolite turinabol.

HIGH: DC seizes light heavyweight chance

Cormier had been preparing to face Ryan Bader later in 2015 when news broke of Jones being stripped of his championship and suspended indefinitely after facing felony charges. The title was suddenly vacant and it was not an opportunity Cormier was going to pass up this time.

He saw off Anthony Johnson to seize the belt in May, recovering from an early overhand right that put him on the canvas.

HIGH: First title defence a classic

Hanging onto that light heavyweight belt would prove far from straightforward, Cormier quickly found. His first defence came against Alexander Gustafsson in a gripping encounter in October of the same year.

The entertaining bout went to a split decision in Cormier's favour, although the victor admitted afterwards: "I feel pretty beat up. This is the worst that I've ever been beat."

HIGH: Stipe stopped to top heavyweight division

Cormier was still the light heavyweight king in July 2018 when he sought to become a two-weight champion by taking on Miocic, then in possession of the heavyweight belt, for the first time.

He got his wish in ruthless fashion, dropping Miocic with his right elbow and completing the job on the ground late in the first round, becoming then just the second UFC star - after Conor McGregor - to simultaneously possess titles at two weights.

LOW: Miocic soon makes amends

An initial title defence was successful against Derrick Lewis, but Cormier - who relinquished his light heavyweight championship in December 2018 - then met Miocic again in August of last year. Cormier was ahead on all of the scorecards in the fourth round but an effective barrage of punches swiftly ended his reign.

It was that reverse that led Cormier to Saturday's trilogy fight for the final chapter of a storied career.

Stipe Miocic retained his UFC heavyweight championship and sent Daniel Cormier into retirement with defeat on Saturday.

In the third bout between the pair, Miocic edged Cormier in Las Vegas to win a sixth heavyweight title fight.

The judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 in Miocic's favour, giving him a second win in three with Cormier.

Both fighters suffered pokes to the eye during the even contest, which eventually fell Miocic's way.

Cormier had confirmed heading in he would retire after the fight, and the former champion delivered a fine performance in his final bout despite later saying he was unable to see out of his left eye following the eye poke.

But Miocic landed more blows throughout, including the best strikes late in the second round.

WHERE WAS THE FIGHT WON?

In what was a battle, Miocic delivered the key blows late in the second round. A late flurry, set up by a huge right hand, rattled Cormier, who managed to survive the final seconds of the round.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Miocic further cemented his status as arguably the greatest UFC heavyweight of all-time. He joined Randy Couture for the equal most heavyweight title fight wins with six.

THEY SAID WHAT?

"He's an amazing champion, amazing ambassador, another guy I have no ill will towards, I know we had our thing for a trilogy, but I think that's what makes it better," Miocic said of Cormier after his win.

NEW RECORDS (W-L-D):

Miocic: 20-3-0
Cormier: 22-3-0

REST OF THE CARD

Sean O'Malley saw his unbeaten record come to an end. The American (12-1) suffered a suspected leg injury before being on the end of a TKO loss in the first round to Marlon Vera (16-6-1) in their bantamweight bout.

Daniel Cormier remains adamant this weekend will be his final fight and there is no finer way to sign off a legendary career than with a trilogy bout against UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

After taking Miocic's title away from him in July 2018, the belt went back to his opponent – after one successful defence against Derrick Lewis – 13 months later to leave this rivalry locked tantalisingly at one victory apiece.

Cormier has enjoyed a storied UFC career, holding belts in two divisions, and only Jon Jones and Miocic have claimed wins over the all-time great.

Now, he is going out with a decisive rubber against Miocic at UFC's APEX facility in Las Vegas on Saturday and with that in mind we have profiled the story so far.


WHAT'S THEIR STORY SO FAR?

Cormier further enhanced his status as one of the greatest fighters of all time when he defeated Miocic with a first-round knockout at UFC 226 in July 2018, meaning he had won belts in two divisions.

A crunching right hand sent Miocic to the canvas and a flurry of unanswered blows brought an end to the contest, after which Cormier called out Brock Lesnar.

But a fight with Lesnar did not come to fruition and a little over a year later Miocic regained the strap with a stunning fourth-round win at UFC 241.

In a title thriller, Miocic was behind on the cards but hurt the champion with a shot to the liver before a series of power punches floored Cormier and saw the belt return to his opponent.


WHY DO WE WANT TO SEE THEM GO AGAIN?

First and foremost because this is a great rivalry that deserves a conclusion.

And also because Cormier has again insisted this will be his last fight, so what better way than for a legend of the MMA game to go out with such a huge bout with the heavyweight title on the line?

Many fans clamoured for Cormier to have one last dance with Jones, but unless 'Bones' stepped up a division that never truly looked a realistic prospect.

Cormier and Miocic have a great history of their own and one last fight between the two is a fitting sign-off if this is truly the end.


HAVE THEY FOUGHT SINCE?

No, neither man has been in action since their last showdown, with the focus purely on securing a trilogy bout.

Miocic suffered a nasty eye injury in their second fight that he needed to fully recover from before getting back to work, while Cormier was quite clear the next fight is his last.


WHY IS IT HAPPENING?

The smart money was always on these two dancing for the third time.

Cormier and Miocic both spoke about the desire for a rubber match, which was slightly held up by the torn retina sustained by the latter in his victory last August and partly by the coronavirus pandemic.

With one win apiece, there is unfinished business and the only way to settle it is by mixing it for one last time inside the Octagon.


WHO WILL WIN?

If ever there was a 50-50 question in the MMA game then this is it. There are those with the school of thought that say Miocic was able to stop Cormier last time around and nothing has really changed to say he cannot do the same again.

Cormier, though, is one of the best to ever get in the Octagon and has an incredible fighting IQ, which may just give him the slightest of edges.

Daniel Cormier believes his name will belong in the same bracket as Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning if he retires by winning back the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic on Saturday. 

Win or lose in the Las Vegas trilogy bout, Cormier (22-2-0) will go down as an all-time great in the mixed martial arts world, having reigned in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in UFC. 

Cormier it set to bid farewell to the fight game but says he should be considered alongside Chicago Bulls legend Jordan – a six-time NBA champion - and Manning, who retired a Super Bowl winner, if he can regain the belt he dropped to Miocic a year ago. 

"I think it puts you right alongside the greatest sports athletes of all time. Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls when they beat the Utah Jazz, unfortunately he came back, I won't come back," he told a pre-fight news conference ahead of UFC 252. 

"Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in his last season, it would put me in that type of sphere with some of the greatest athletes that have competed in any sport. So, when I win on Saturday, I will retire in that way." 

Cormier's legacy is without question, but a defeat would mean he ends his career with losing records against the two fighters who have also reigned in the same era - Miocic and Jon Jones. 

While admitting such a scenario would be damaging to his own ego, Cormier says he has earned the respect of his fellow professionals. 

"I'm a guy with a big ego and that would suck, I gotta be honest. To think there would be two guys in my career that were just better than me and I had multiple chances to beat them, it would suck," he added.  

"But Dana [White] didn't just go 'hey DC, you're a great guy I love you, fight for all these championships', I earned all these opportunities.

"So, all these tough guys I fight, again 10 title fights in a row, that's all earned, it's not because they like me. These guys aren't my friends to the point where they just give me championship fights.  

"I train, I fight and I win - that's why I continue to find myself in this position. But all this pressure is earned. The pressure of fighting a guy like Stipe Miocic, the pressure of fighting a guy like Jon Jones twice - when Jones beat me and he got in trouble I beat everyone else until he got back then I beat everybody else again until I fought Stipe.

"All this s***'s earned, man, it's not given and I think people need to recognise that." 

Miocic (19-3-0), who lost the first bout between the two back in July 2018, has no qualms with the focus being on his retiring opponent. 

"All good. He can take it all, man. It's all good. I don't mind it. Listen, good for him. I'm just going to hang out in the back," he said. 

"Thank God we're done with this. It's been great. We're done. Rubber match, everyone wants a trilogy, but when it's all said and done, it's going to be over.  

"I think it's always personal whenever you fight, because [your opponent is] trying to do something. They're trying to beat you. They're trying to take something away from you. 

"I've got no ill will towards the man and he's going to have a good retirement. God bless him, and I wish nothing but the best for him."

Daniel Cormier insists his next fight will be his last and there would be no finer way to sign off a legendary career than a trilogy bout with UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

After taking Miocic's title away from him in July 2018, the belt went back to his opponent – after one successful defence against Derrick Lewis – 13 months later to leave this rivalry locked tantalisingly at one victory apiece.

Cormier has enjoyed a storied UFC career, holding belts in two divisions, and only Jon Jones and Miocic have claimed wins over the all-time great.

But it would be a shame if he did not go out with a decisive rubber against Miocic.

So, with that in mind we have profiled the story so far in the second of our UFC rematches we would love to see series.


WHAT'S THEIR STORY SO FAR?

Cormier further enhanced his status as one of the greatest fighters of all time when he defeated Miocic with a first-round knockout at UFC 226 in July 2018, meaning he had won belts in two divisions.

A crunching right hand sent Miocic to the canvas and a flurry of unanswered blows brought an end to the contest, after which Cormier called out Brock Lesnar.

But a fight with Lesnar did not come to fruition and a little over a year later Miocic regained the strap with a stunning fourth-round win at UFC 241.

In a title thriller, Miocic was behind on the cards but hurt the champion with a shot to the liver before a series of power punches floored Cormier and saw the belt return to his opponent.


WHY DO WE WANT TO SEE THEM GO AGAIN?

First and foremost because this is a great rivalry that deserves a conclusion.

And also because Cormier has insisted his next fight in UFC will be his last, so what better way than for a legend of the MMA game to go out with such a huge bout with the heavyweight title on the line?

Many fans have clamoured for Cormier to have one last dance with Jon Jones, but unless 'Bones' stepped up a division that never truly looked a realistic prospect.

Cormier and Miocic have a great history of their own and one last fight between the two would be a fitting end for Cormier if this is truly the end.


HAVE THEY FOUGHT SINCE?

No, neither man has been in action since their last showdown, with the focus purely on securing a trilogy bout.

Miocic suffered a nasty eye injury in their second fight that he needs to fully recover from before getting back to work, while Cormier has been quite clear that he intends his next fight to be his last.


WILL IT HAPPEN?

The smart money is on yes.

While nothing is officially signed, Cormier and Miocic have both spoken about the desire for a rubber match – which has been slightly held up by the torn retina sustained by the latter in his victory last August.

With one win apiece, there is unfinished business and the only way to settle it is by mixing it for one last time inside the Octagon.


WHO WOULD WIN?

If ever there was a 50-50 question in the MMA game then this is it. There are those with the school of thought that say Miocic was able to stop Cormier last time around and nothing has really changed to say he cannot do the same again.

Cormier, though, is one of the best to ever get in the Octagon and has an incredible fighting IQ, which may just give him the slightest of edges in a rematch.

Daniel Cormier believes "anyone in their right mind" would accept the role of UFC president if offered the job, though he expects Dana White to be around for a long time yet.

Former two-weight UFC champion Cormier is one of the most celebrated fighters in the organisation's history having reigned in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions during his career.

At 41, Cormier is fast closing in on retirement and has hinted his next fight will be his last.

Trilogy fights with Stipe Miocic, who he dropped the heavyweight belt to last year, and Jon Jones have been mooted, with the former appearing to be the more feasible option.

Cormier would love to remain a part of the company's set-up once he retires but wants White to continue as president for the foreseeable future.

"I think anybody in the world in their right might would [take the job]," Cormier told MMA Fighting when asked about becoming UFC president. 

"To be at the head of an organisation that does so many great things in terms of entertainment, and not only that, but community help. 

"I think what people don't see is the type of influence that the UFC has in the community. The work that they do with youth programs and programs around the world.

"I think if you ever have an opportunity or anyone has an opportunity to do a job like that, they would be insane not to hope to have that opportunity. 

"But Dana's going to be here for a long time. Dana's the man."

He added:  "I would love any job with the UFC. I love this organisation. I think since I came over from Strikeforce, I've made some good relationships with the people in the company. 

"I've started to learn. I've just really learned about this company and the one thing that really stands out the most for me is how much time, energy and effort the UFC puts into helping the youths.

"That stands out to me because that's something I do. I know how important it is for Dana and the UFC to support local programs and support athletic clubs, support academic clubs. 

"There's just so many things that they do to try and help people around the world, it really makes me appreciate who I work for."

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