The reigning lightweight champion laid his gloves down in the Octagon following his second-round submission victory over Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 headliner at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Nurmagomedov exits the sport with a 29-0 career mark; many thought he would pursue one last bout to end at 30-0, but a promise the Dagestani made to his mother before UFC 254 carried more weight than that pursuit.
Nurmagomedov’s father and longtime coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died at age 57 due to COVID-19 complications in July, which made the champion’s journey to fight week that much more difficult this time around.
“Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father,” Nurmagomedov said in the Octagon. “It was first time, after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin. I talk with my mother three days, she don’t want that I go fight without father. I promised her, it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”
Prior to that announcement, potential opponents for Nurmagomedov’s attempt at 30-0 included former UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre as well as longtime rival Conor McGregor, who is rumored to face Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23. Nurmagomedov’s first meeting with McGregor was the top-selling pay-per-view in promotion history, and the animosity between the two spilled over into a post-fight melee at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas following their clash at UFC 229 in October 2018.
On Saturday, McGregor issued a short statement via Twitter praising Nurmagomedov for his performance and once again offering condolences for the passing of his father.
“Good performance, [Khabib Nurmagomedov],” McGregor wrote. “Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, the McGregors.”
Good performance @TeamKhabib.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) October 24, 2020
I will carry on.
Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family.
Yours sincerely, The McGregors.
Had McGregor defeated Poirier in their rematch it was believed that he might have a chance at squaring off with his Dagestani foil again, but that seems unlikely, especially considering Nurmagomedov owns victories over both men.
“Today is my last fight here in UFC. It was my father’s dream,” Nurmagomedov said. “Dustin and Conor are going to fight January. I choke them out, both of them. I’m not interested in this.”
As part of his post-fight retirement statement, Nurmagomedov requested that he be recognized as the promotion’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. As it stands, he currently ranks No. 2 behind former light heavyweight king Jon Jones. Nurmagomedov is already No. 1 in Sherdog.com’s pound-for-pound poll.
“I know only one thing I want from UFC, you guys have to be me on No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this,” he said. “UFC undisputed, undefeated lightweight champion, 13-0, 13 in UFC, 29 in all pro MMA career. I think I deserve it.”
Jones, however, wasn’t so willing to relinquish the top spot in the UFC rankings – though he did seem to indicate he would do so temporarily.
“Until I take that heavily crown, I grant you the spot. Enjoy champ,” Jones wrote on Twitter.
Shortly thereafter, Jones seemed to reconsider that notion.
“15 world titles, numbers don’t lie,” he added. “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.
“Definitely a powerful moment, but my logic is definitely not clouded.”
Until I take that heavily crown, I grant you the spot. Enjoy Champ— BONY (@JonnyBones) October 24, 2020
15 world titles, numbers don’t lie.— BONY (@JonnyBones) October 24, 2020
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.— BONY (@JonnyBones) October 24, 2020
Definitely a powerful moment, but my logic is definitely not clouded.— BONY (@JonnyBones) October 24, 2020
Through 28 professional bouts, Jones has never truly tasted defeat. His lone loss, a questionable disqualification against Matt Hamill in 2010, came in a bout he was easily winning. The only blemish, which came after a TKO of Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, was overturned to a no contest due to a failed drug test. After a dominant run at light heavyweight, Jones is expected to move up to heavyweight in the near future after vacating the 205-pound belt earlier this year. A date for his heavyweight debut is currently unknown.