Overcome with emotion following his UFC 254 victory, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retires at a perfect 29-0. Although it does not come as a surprise, it was a moving moment to see Nurmagomedov hush his supporters and lie in prayer. The champion broke down and cried after an emotional year following the death of his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. Khabib described him as the man who showed him everything in life and that training for this fight with Justin Gaethje just did not feel right. He stated that he struggled in training without his father and the emotional toll in the lead to the fight was troubling. He said that he does not feel he can continue on without his father and accomplished everything he could ever hope to accomplish.
I write this not long after the fight and the post fight press stuff is still ongoing so I doubt there are uploads yet of Khabib’s retirement speech from within the octagon. I spent the sixty-four or so dollars to watch the early main event and in many circumstances I would feel that I did not get my money’s worth. The fight was about six or seven minutes of action so the price tag didn’t seem to cover my fill but the speech and retirement was a great showing of humanity and sportsmanship. Athletes, especially fighters, have to mask their emotional hurt and hide their pain through the rigors of training and competition. Seeing a fighter as mean (in the octagon) and as cold of a killer breakdown and just let out his emotions like that was moving. When Gaethje came to after being rendered unconscious from a submission choke he met his rival in the center of the ring and embraced his crying opponent. It is the truest display of sportsmanship I have seen in a long time. Moments after intense fighting and experiencing the pain of defeat in a chance to be champion, Gaethje put that all aside to comfort Khabib as he let it all out.
I am a casual MMA observer who watches the fights, follows, some storylines, and watches the prefight shows so I cannot say much about these two men outside of the octagon. If Khabib has a knack for public speaking it has passed me by but he delivered an honest, heartfelt, and overall very classy post fight speech. After the usual god, team, and family thanking the champion wished Gaethje well and thanked him for something he helped him with back in 2016. He praised Gaethje and thanked him and stated he feels he has a strong future ahead of him in the sport. Gaethje smiled and stood there watching the champion air out his praise and retirement and told interviewer John Anik that he stood through all of it to make sure he could congratulate Khabib when it was his turn on the microphone.