Dubai: “It was my father’s dream,” said an emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov after he submitted challenger Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in what was the final fight of his illustrious career that saw him unbeaten in 29 MMA bouts.
The Dagestan native who burst into tears as soon as the fight ended, once again put up a dominant performance to prove that he is the best lightweight fighter on the planet.
“God gave me everything and thank you to my father who had been with me for over 10 years of my career,” he said. “Today is my last fight after what happened to my father. I talked with my mother for three days and I promised her that this was going to be my last fight. I only want one thing from the UFC - to be recognised as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think I deserve it.”
Nurmagomedov's father, Abdulmana, died in July this year after he lost his battle with COVID-19.
Gaethje, who many believed had the right tools to hand the Russian his first defeat, was unable to fight his fight but for the occasional leg kicks as Nurmagomedov turned the attacker early in the fight.
“I felt great, it’s great feeling to enter the Octagon and do what I do,” the American said. “He did what he had to do and I know he’s in a bad spot at the moment, but he made his father so proud today.”
Asked what the future had in store for him Gaethje, who parents are in Abu Dhabi. said: “I fight for a living. The best thing about getting chocked out is that it’s not consequential to your long term health, which is something I always care about. But I’m ready for the next one.”
Both fighters began quietly from an orthodox stance before Gaethje began to attack Nurmagomedov’s lead leg. As the fight progressed Nurmagomedov began to heap pressure on the American and forced him to back pedal.
He would land 18 significant strikes to Gaethje’s 11 significant leg strikes but Nurmagomedov’s dominance and one takedown won hms the round, even if narrowly.
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During the break Gaethje tells his corner and coach Trevor Whitman that he thinks Nurmagomedov’s leg is hurt, even as the Russian’s corner are seen adding ice to the injury.
But Gaethje could not have been prepared for what happened next as Nurmagomedov came out landing hooks and looking for the takedown early. Gaethje stuck with the leg kicks but on one of the attempts Nurmagomedov lunged forward and took him down and went into full mount.
The end was near as Nurmagomedov locked in a triangle forcing Gaethje to tap.
What a performance from arguably one of the greatest MMA fighters to ever grace the Octagon.