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Khabib ‘The Eagle’ flies off with ‘GOAT’ status

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi
ashwani@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 25, 2020
Khabib Nurmagomedov lands a punch to the face of Justin Gaethje during their lightweight fight in Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island. — Supplied photo

Khabib hung up his gloves after nailing 29 opponents in a decorated MMA career spanning 12 years.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the greatest of all time (GOAT), UFC president Dana White declared after ‘the Eagle’ announced his retirement following a sensational submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island on Sunday.

Khabib, the 32-year-old unbeaten champ, hung up his gloves after nailing 29 opponents in a decorated MMA career spanning 12 years. Gaethje, the American, was the toughest test that the UFC could offer Khabib in the lightweight division and the Russian fighter smashed out a result in 1 minute, 34 seconds of the second round.

What made the performance a cut above the rest was White’s revelation during the post-match press conference that Khabib fought with a broken foot.

“What this guy’s been through, we were all lucky that we got to see him fight. And I’m hearing rumours of other things that I didn’t know about. Apparently, he was in the hospital. He broke his foot three weeks ago. So, he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me. He never told anybody and walked around. So, I mean, he is one of the toughest human beings on the planet. He is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And seriously you have to start putting him up there at GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT,” White said.

Sunday’s title unification bout was Khabib’s first outing after the demise of his father and mentor Abdulmanap in July. After the fight, Khabib said he no longer wished to return to the steel cage. When White was asked if there was a chance to convince Khabib for another match, he said: “Let him take some time off. Let him heal. Not physically but emotionally heal with what he’s going through after losing his father.”

In his final fight against the No.1 contender, Khabib, the grappler, was in the zone. ‘The Eagle’ put Justin under immense pressure with an unusual stand-up game filled with jabs. Justin, the ‘Highlight’, wasn’t able to fight his fight and was conscious about not letting Khabib take him down – a mistake previously committed by 28 other opponents. In the second round, there was an impressive transition on the mat by Khabib as he floored Justin and deployed a triangle choke.

As Justin tapped out, Khabib looked to his corner, dropped to his knees and broke down in tears.

“Alhamdulillah. This was my last fight. No way am I going to come back here without my father. When the UFC called for a fight against Justin, I spoke to my mother for three days but she didn’t want me to go and fight without my father. I promised her this is going to be my final fight. And if I have given my word, I have to follow it. This was my last fight here,” Khabib said and left his gloves in the cage of the Flash Forum.

Khabib, the phenomenon, earned respect from peers and legions of fans across the world — all of whom were left stunned into silence with his unexpected decision to quit. The cold stares, infamous Dagestani handcuffs and thralls inside the octagon will be missed.



Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.

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