Source: UFC Twitter
UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov couldn’t hold back the tears after defeating interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on Saturday.
After the passing of his father, Abdulmanap, in July, it was hard to tell how many fights Nurmagomedov had left in him. Ever since he was young, Abdulmanap was his coach, best friend, biggest critic, and is heavily credited as crafting the champion he is today.
Seconds after Nurmagomedov submitted Gaethje via triangle in the second round, he found the center of the Octagon, physically and emotionally drained. This was the first fight his dad was not there as a coach. The champ wept as his only mission was to come out on top—in his father’s honor.
Now, he is leaving on top as Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in the post-fight interview with Jon Anik.
“God gives me everything,” Nurmagomedov said. “To all my team, thank you. This was my last fight. There is no way I can come here without my father. It was my last fight here. I deserve this.”
This may not come as a shock to some, as retirement rumors floated around this summer, but he believes this is his time. On Saturday, he proved to him, his father, and the entire world that Khabib Nurmagomedov is the UFC Lightweight king and most likely the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
This was Nurmagomedov’s fourth title defense and what many deemed his toughest challenge yet. He hasn’t lost a bout in 12 years and now improves to 29-0.
Gaethje was in good spirits after the fight despite his loss to Nurmagomedov. The challenger understood how big this moment was and stuck around in the Octagon to see it unfold.
“He did what he had to do, and I know he made his father very proud,” Gaethje told Anik. “I am ready for the next one, whenever.”
The co-main event was a crucial matchup to shape the Middleweight division. No. 1 Robert Whittaker and No. 2 Jared Cannonier duked it out to see who would most likely have a shot at Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Whittaker dealt some heavy head shots, which gave him the edge early. For Cannonier, his focus on his opponent’s lead leg was his biggest success early on. Right out of the gate, it was clear that Whittaker was head-hunting and Cannonier was tearing Whittaker’s knee with kicks.
This was a technical striking bout that found its ground in the third round when Whittaker landed a devastating head kick. Despite giving up his back, Cannonier avoided a submission and the fight ended with a flurry of exchanges.
Whittaker’s strikes and Octagon control gave him the unanimous decision victory after three full action packed rounds.
Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje- 1:34, Rd 2: Triangle Choke
Whittaker vs. Cannonier- 5:00 R3: U DEC
Volkov vs. Harris- 1:15, R2: TKO
Malkoun vs. Hawes- 0:18, R1: KO
Murphy vs. Shakirova- 3:31, R2: Rear Naked Choke
Ankalaev vs. Cutelaba- 4:19, R1: KO
(Bolded Name Signifies a victory)