UFC superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov retired undefeated on Saturday night after trouncing interim champ Justin Gaethje via second-round submission. But Nurmagomedov, 31, from Dagestan, had to overcome a myriad of obstacles to finish his impressive UFC career as what UFC president Dana White termed the “baddest motherf***** on the planet”.
Heavy on UFC presents five hellish obstacles Khabib overcame to finish his career 29-0 over the weekend in Abu Dhabi.
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1. Untimely Death of His Father
Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died in Russia earlier this year due to complications from COVID-19.
That left Khabib competing in the first fight of his professional life without his father by his side. Abdulmanap was the mentor and architect of the Russian’s smash and grab style, and the two men were very close.
Indeed, it had to be a huge emotional burden to carry the loss of his father into the Octagon on Saturday night. In fact, it’s what ultimately led to Khabib announcing his retirement after UFC 254 was over.
“This is my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said per AP. “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.”
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Immediately after UFC 254 was over, UFC president Dana White revealed to the media in the post-fight press conference that Nurmagomedov’s camp had been incredibly tough on the fighter.
A few minutes later, Yahoo’s Kevin Iole reported via social media that Khabib had suffered a case of the mumps during camp.
Before he broke a toe in his foot, Khabib had mumps. Coach Javier Mendez just told me that was the worst camp they had and he was out two weeks cuz of the mumps. Got it in mid-September. #UFC254
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) October 24, 2020
Khabib’s trainer, Javier Mendez, talked more about how all that went down to Submission Radio.
“It took him out of two weeks of training,” Mendez said per MMA Junkie. “And he got the mumps, I guess, the day before his father’s event in Russia. So, he came here with the mumps, and he tried training a couple of days really light. But then he got so sick; he had to be hospitalized. So, he was in the hospital for three days.”
3. A Broken Foot
On top of that, Nurmagomedov also suffered a broken bone in his foot just three weeks before the fight.
Mendez revealed Khabib’s sparring wasn’t looking super great after he came back from the mumps, but that things then got a whole lot worse for his fighter after he broke his foot.
“He looked OK. Not how I wanted him to look, but he looked okay. And the second sparring session he was looking great, and all of a sudden midway in the second round, boom, he stops. I go, ‘What the heck happened?’ Broke his freakin’ toe. And I’m like, ‘Oh, great. Broken toe.’ Now we have to wait more time for him to heal before we can start training again,” Mendez said per MMA Junkie.
4. Gaethje’s Brutal Leg Kicks
Gaethje’s gameplan against Nurmagomoedov was to bash the Russian’s legs hard with kicks, and that’s exactly what the 31-year-old American tried to do.
Gaethje landed 14 brutal leg kicks in the short fight, and the former interim champ even said afterward that he believes he was on his way to winning the fight with them.
“I had him in trouble,” Gaethje said in his post-fight interview with ESPN. “I wasn’t very many kicks away from him not being able to walk. He’s gonna be limping for the next three weeks. It’s nothing to be proud of because I lost.”
But Nurmagomedov amazingly turned Gaethje’s last attempted leg kick into the harbinger of his doom. Nurmagomedov caught that kick and used it for the takedown that led to his submission.
Gaethje’s one of the hardest strikers in the sport, but he still couldn’t land anything hard enough to keep Nurmagomedov from tracking him down.
5. The Weight of Knowing It Was His Final Fight
As if all that wasn’t enough, Nurmagomedov went into his main event fight at UFC 254 knowing it would be his last.
That’s never easy for a fighter, and it’s doubly the case with a fighter seemingly in his prime at the top of the sport with massive superfights still ahead for him.
But Nurmagomedov carried that hellish burden, along with the rest of them, and still managed to dominate Gaethje to finish his remarkable career 29-0.
“Khabib Time” might forever be over in the UFC, but it will never be forgotten.
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