Georges St. Pierre was supposed to be magic No. 30 on Khabib Nurmagomedov’s journey to retirement.
Instead, “The Eagle” threw a curve and called it a career following his second-round submission of Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 headliner on Saturday night. After the victory, Nurmagomedov left his gloves in the Octagon and explained his decision, which came on the heels of the death of his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, earlier this year.
“Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father,” Nurmagomedov said. “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.”
St. Pierre knows a little something about surprise announcements: He took an indefinite hiatus from the sport after defeating Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November 2013, a revelation that initially sent UFC president Dana White into a rage. Still, even the former welterweight and middleweight champ was taken aback by Nurmagomedov’s announcement, though he was effusive in his praised for the 155-pound king.
“I was surprised,” St-Pierre told ESPN. “I was not expecting that at all. … I thought he wanted to do, and all the people in the media said he wanted to do 30-0. That’s his choice. What a great way to finish a career. He left an incredible legacy. One of the best to have ever done it — maybe the best to have ever done it.”
St. Pierre is another fighter regarded on the short list of top pound-for-pound figthters ever, along with the likes of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. He briefly returned from hiatus to claim the 185-pound belt with a win over Michael Bisping in 2017 but retired again shortly thereafter when negotiations for a potential bout vs. Nurmagomedov fell through.
Talks of the dream matchup resurfaced in recent weeks, and there seemed to be hope that the promotion would make it a reality if Nurmagomedov could get past Gaethje. Those hopes are no longer, as Nurmagomedov rides off into the sunset with a 29-0 mark.
“It did not happen,” St. Pierre said of the fight. “I’m good where I am. Khabib is invincible now. He’s undefeated. It was a perfect career. There’s nothing we can say bad about him. It’s a perfect career, like 29-0 and you retire on top with the best performance of his career. What do you want more? It was incredible. It was a perfect fight in a perfect career — as close as it gets.”