Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov’s route to last Saturday night’s UFC lightweight championship unification clash with interim champion, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje was filled with adversity including the unfortunate passing of his coach and father, Abdulmanap earlier this year – as well a broken foot which he suffered three week’s prior to the contest.
Khabib, who announced his sudden retirement from professional mixed martial arts after his main event clash with Gaethje, did so as the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, sitting at a perfect 29-0 to boot.
Taking on Elevation Fight Team staple, Gaethje in the unification clash, Khabib sealed his legacy with a second-round triangle, choking the Arizonian unconscious, before an emotional post-fight interview with promotional commentator, Jon Anik in which he announced his decision to hang up his gloves, following a discussion with his mother – citing how he wasn’t willing to make another Octagon walk without his father by his side.
The 32-year-old Sambo specialist, who largely wasn’t expected to continue his professional career beyond the thirty-fight mark, noted the expected upcoming clash of former opponents, Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier, and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor at UFC 257 in January, explaining how he’s not interested in that potential fight – having scored victories against both.
Following the poignant interview with Anik – UFC president, Dana White noted how he was hearing rumblings Khabib had suffered an injury prior to the event, and how the mixed martial arts community as a whole was lucky to see him step foot into the Octagon at UFC 254.
“”Listen, man, what he’s (Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s) been through, we’re all lucky we got to see him fight tonight,” White said. “And I’m hearing rumours of other things that I didn’t know about, that you guys will hear about when he comes out later I’m sure.“
“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. And never told anybody – [was] walking around, I mean, he is one of the toughest human beings on the planet and he is just – he’s the number-one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And seriously, you have to start putting him up there at G.O.A.T. status, whoever else you think is the G.O.A.T.“
Posting to his official Instagram earlier this week, Nurmagomedov shared images of his broken foot as well as an x-ray scan of the injury.
With Khabib’s decision to call time on a gleaming professional career which came to a conclusion with a trio of successful title defence submissions against the division’s most dangerous strikers, McGregor, Poirier, and Gaethje – the promotion will have to put together some sort of matchup or format to crown a new undisputed champion in Khabib’s absence.
So far, seven-fight streaking contender, Charles Oliveira has called for his inclusion in any discussion of a vacant lightweight title fight, while former three-time Bellator lightweight best, Michael Chandler has floated the idea of a four-man tournament involving himself, both Poirier and McGregor, as well as rumoured foe, Tony Ferguson.