Unbeaten light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from blended martial arts after stopping Justin Gaethje with a triangle choke early within the second spherical at UFC 254 on Saturday night time.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) made the announcement instantly after he impressively completed his first struggle for the reason that loss of life of his father and lifelong coach in July. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov had a coronary heart drawback exacerbated by Covid-19, and his son was overcome by tears within the cage moments after choking Gaethje unconscious 1:34 into the second spherical of his third UFC title protection.
“This is my last fight,” Nurmagomedov stated. “There’s no way I’m going to be back without my father. I spoke to my mother. She don’t know how I fight without father, but I promised it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow it.”
The 32-year-old Nurmagomedov was energetic with strikes and with grappling in opposition to Gaethje (22-3), the harmful brawler who had knocked out 4 consecutive elite opponents whereas successful the UFC’s interim light-weight title.
After spending the primary spherical largely buying and selling punches and kicks with the aggressive Gaethje, Nurmagomedov used his unparalleled wrestling abilities to take down Gaethje early within the second spherical after which labored into place for the ending choke.
Gaethje appeared to faucet out not less than twice earlier than the referee observed and stopped the bout, by which era Gaethje was unconscious. He bounced up rapidly and shared a second of mutual respect with the dominant Russian champion.
“I know he was in a bad spot, but whether he was or not, he did what he needed to do,” Gaethje stated. “I know his father is so proud.”
Additionally at UFC 254, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker made his case for an additional title shot with a strong unanimous determination over fellow contender Jared Cannonier within the penultimate bout on Combat Island.
Nurmagomedov’s first struggle in 13 months could be an applicable farewell for probably the most dynamic opponents in current MMA historical past. The Dagestan-born grappling specialist developed a well-rounded sport underneath the tutelage of his father and a Bay Space-based MMA health club, culminating in his ascent to the UFC title in 2018.
Nurmagomedov stopped Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in his subsequent two bouts earlier than his yearlong absence from competitors. His victory over McGregor made him one of many world’s most well-known fight sports activities athletes, and the UFC scheduled this pay-per-view present at an earlier-than-normal time to cater to his huge fan base in Russia and Europe.
However Nurmagomedov has spoken of retirement earlier than, and his announcement confirmed he’s completed with the game after operating by way of many of the UFC light-weight division.
“Dustin and Conor are going to fight in January,” Nurmagomedov stated, referring to the possible assembly between the previous contenders at UFC 257. “I choked them both out. I’m not interested in this.”
Earlier, Whittaker (22-5) gave a disciplined, energetic efficiency with spectacular putting to earn his second straight UFC victory since shedding his title to Israel Adesanya in late 2019.
Capping his effort by dropping Cannonier with a mixture halfway by way of the ultimate spherical, Whittaker gained two of three rounds on each scorecard whereas soundly outstriking Cannonier (13-5), who took his first loss in practically 2 half years.
Whittaker seemingly earned an opportunity at a rematch with Adesanya with the victory, however he didn’t name out the champion after his bout, as an alternative expressing solely pleasure about returning dwelling to place up his household’s Christmas tree. Whittaker withdrew from a bout with Cannonier scheduled for March in Las Vegas as a result of he felt burned out on MMA.
“I’m very happy it’s all over,” Whittaker stated. “We got the result we wanted. Work’s done, baby. I’m coming home.”
Earlier within the present, Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov stopped Walt Harris with a kick to the chest and punches on the bottom 1:15 into the second spherical. Flyweight Lauren Murphy additionally bolstered her case for a title shot with a second-round stoppage of Liliya Shakirova by rear bare choke for her fourth straight victory.
UFC 254 was the final of 5 exhibits in a month contained in the promotion’s safe bubble on Yas Island. The UFC, which paused competitors for less than eight weeks early within the coronavirus pandemic, returns to its hometown subsequent week to start a collection of not less than 5 consecutive exhibits on its company campus in Las Vegas.