Khabib Nurmagomedov wanted to make a statement Saturday at UFC 254 and show the world that he is the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Nurmagomedov not only made that statement, but also one that was more momentous. After submitting Gaethje (triangle choke) at 1:34 of the second round to become the undisputed lightweight champion and complete his mission of becoming the best in the sport, Nurmagomedov shockingly announced he was retiring from mixed martial arts.
He said that after he accepted the Gaethje fight, he had a conversation with his mother about stepping away. She wanted him not to continue fighting without his father, Abdulmanap, who died in July of COVID-19 complications, by his side. Khabib wanted to abide by her wishes.
“Today I want to say this was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov told Jon Anik in his postfight interview inside the Octagon inside the Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, on the UFC’s Fight Island. “No way I’m going to come here without my father. It was the first time after what happened with my father.
“When UFC called me about (fighting) Justin, I talked with my mother. She didn’t want me to fight without father. But I promised her it’s going to be my last fight and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”
Nurmagomedov shied away from his wrestling in the first round and decided to trade on the feet with Gaethje. He applied constant pressure by stalking Gaethje and throwing nonstop at the former interim champion. Gaethje started to come around and attacked Nurmagoemdov’s left leg with kicks. Just when Gaethje got comfortable, Nurmagomedov took him down with 40 seconds remaining. He nearly pulled off an armbar submission but ran out of time.
Gaethje continued the assault on Nurmagomedov’s leg to begin the second round. “The Highlight” threw a thunderous kick to buckle Nurmagomedov. But Khabib exemplified why he’s the best fighter in the world. Right when Gaethje spun around from throwing the kick, Nurmagomedov ran at him and immediately took him down.
Nurmagomedov looked to be attempting another armbar. Instead, the Dagestan native kicked the legs and locked in the triangle. Gaethje lifted Nurmagomedov in the air and slammed him, but the champion didn’t let go. He continued to squeeze, and after Gaethje tapped out multiple times, referee Jason Herzog noticed that he had passed out.
Nurmagomedov exits the sport as the first fighter in UFC history to retire undefeated for their career (29-0) and in the UFC (13-0).
Here is what happened at UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje.
Khabib vs. Gaethje live updates, highlights from UFC 254
(All times Eastern.)
Khabib chokes out Gaethje to remain lightweight champion, then retires
5 p.m.: Nurmagomedov def. Gaethje by submission (triangle choke) at 1:34 of the second round to become the undisputed lightweight champion. Right when Gaethje started to get into the fight after landing a hard leg kick that buckled Khabib’s leg, Nurmagomedov immediately secured the takedown. It was all Khabib from there as he switched to a triangle choke and Gaethje tapped out multiple times before referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop it.
At the conclusion of the fight, Nurmagomedov told Jon Anik that this would be his last fight. Nurmagomedov said his mother didn’t want him fighting without his father after he died in July and wanted to abide by her wishes.
Round 1: An action-packed opening five minutes. Nurmgomedov did the unexpected and stayed on the feet with Gaethje. He constantly walked Gaethje down and kept throwing kicks and punches without much letup. Gaethje had his moments in working on Nurmagomedov’s lead leg and connected on a series of hard shots of his own. Nurmagomedov scored a takedown in the final moments of the round. (10-9 Khabib)
4:30 p.m.: It’s now time for the main event as lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim titlist Justin Gaethje clash for the undisputed lightweight championship. Nurmagomedov and Gaethje are facing their toughest tests to date.
Can Nurmagomedov use his grappling to remain undefeated? Will Gaethje be able to keep himself away from the back of the cage and beat someone many pundits feel is unbeatable?
Robert Whittaker outstrikes Jared Cannonier to earn likely title shot
4:20 p.m.: Whittaker def. Cannonier by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). A very good striking battle. Cannonier controlled the first round, making mincemeat of Whittaker’s leg by constant kicks that left his knee bruised. Whittaker came back to win the last two rounds by being more active and landing the harder shots, including a three-shot combination that culminated in a head kick that nearly knocked out Cannonier.
A really good performance from Whittaker that puts him back in prime position to get a crack at regaining his middleweight belt.
3:58 p.m.: It’s time for the co-main event of UFC 254 as No. 1-ranked Robert Whittaker faces off against No. 2-ranked Jared Cannonier in middleweight action. Whittaker (22-5) rebounded from losing his title to Israel Adesanya to beat Darren Till by unanimous decision in July. Cannonier (13-4) has taken the 185-pound division by storm, winning all three of his bouts via stoppage. The winner is likely to garner a crack at Adesanya.
Will Cannonier be able to break through or does Whittaker show he’s the second-best middleweight in the world?
Alexander Volkov finishes Walt Harris
3:47 p.m.: Volkov def. Harris by TKO at 1:15 of the second round. The Russian nearly finished Harris in the first round but didn’t have enough time. He had more than enough time in the second. Volkov saw an opening and connected on a beautiful front body kick that made Harris fall to his knees screaming. Volkov jumped on the opportunity and uncorked a series of left and right hands to send Harris packing. A great win for Volkov to get him back on track and inch himself toward a title shot.
3:30 p.m.: Coming up at UFC 254, No. 7-ranked Alexandar Volkov squares off with No. 10-ranked Walt Harris in heavyweight action. Volkov (31-8) is a former Bellator heavyweight champion. In his last time out, Volkov came up short against Curtis Blaydes by unanimous decision. Of his 31 victories, 20 of them have come inside the distance. Harris (13-8, one no-contest) looks to rebound from a second-round loss to Alistair Overeem in May. The Alabama comes in fantastic shape, losing over 30 pounds. All 13 of his wins have comes via knockout.
If you have to go to the bathroom, go quickly, as this contest isn’t going to go 15 minutes.
Phillip Hawes blasts through Jacob Malkoun in 18 seconds
3:17 p.m.: Hawes def. Malkoun by knockout at 0:18 in the first round. Hawes showed why fighters don’t get paid by the hour. He went right at Malkoun and backed him up against the cage. Hawes teed off on Malkoun, starting off with a right hook behind the ear to drop Malkoun. Sensing he had Malkoun in trouble, Hawes unloaded a barrage of shots, punctuated things by connecting with a left hook followed by a right hook directly to the chin to send Malkoun into unconsciousness.
You couldn’t have asked for a better UFC debut. What a performance by Hawes.
3:08 p.m.: Right now at UFC 254, Jacob Malkoun meets Phillip Hawes in middleweight action. Hawes (8-2) comes in making his UFC debut after a sensational first-round knockout over Khadzhimurat Bestaev on Dana White’s Contender Series in September. All of his victories have come via stoppage. Malkoun (4-0) is a teammate of Robert Whittaker and like Hawes is also making his UFC debut.
Who has a successful first outing inside the Octagon?
Lauren Murphy submits Liliya Shakirova to extend win streak to four
2:59 p.m.: Murphy def. Shakirova via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:31 of the second round. After a difficult first round, Murphy turned it on in the second. She started to find her range which forced Shakirova’s back to the cage. Murphy seized the opportunity and took Shakirova down. She transitioned to Shakirova’s back, dropped to her back and secured the choke. Shakirova tried to fight it off but had no choice but to tap out.
That’s four straight victories for Murphy at 125 pounds. In her post-fight interview, she demanded a title shot for her next fight against the winner of champion Valentina Shevchenko and Jennifer Maia at UFC 255. Her resume speaks for itself, so why not Murphy?
2:37 p.m.: Coming up at UFC 254, No. 5-ranked Lauren Murphy facing Liliya Shakirova in women’s flyweight action. Shakirova is taking the fight on short notice, but comes in having won eight of nine pro contests. Since moving down 125 pounds, it’s been a whole new Murphy (13-4) as she’s won three consecutive bouts in her new weight class.
This should be a showcase for Murphy but never say never in MMA.
Magomed Ankalaev settles the score with Ion Cutelaba in emphatic fashion
2:27 p.m.: Ankalaev def. Cutelaba by knockout at 4:19 of the first round. A straight left hand set everything up for Ankaleav. He dropped Cutelaba, who rolled back to his feet. Cutelaba tried to close the distance with the jab. But Ankalaev was having none of it, landing a check right hook immediately followed by a monsterous left hook to send Cutelaba to the canvas. Ankalaev landed couple of ground and punches for good measure to seal the deal.
A great win Ankalaev and now he can put Cutelaba in his rearview mirror and focus on working his way up in the light heavyweight division.
2:13 p.m.: The UFC 254 main card begins with No. 11-ranked Magomed Ankalaev versus Ion Cutelaba in light heavyweight action. This rematch has been booked more times than we’d all like to remember. They fought back in February with Ankaleav (13-1) winning via a controversial stoppage. Ankaleav was landing a series of shots but Cutelaba (15-5, one no-contest) was possum and trying to bait Ankaleav in. The referee didn’t feel that was the case and stopped the fight.
The score will get settled here.
1:50 p.m.: Told you guys it wouldn’t last long as Tuivasa knocked out Struve with one second remaining in the first round. Tuivasa landed a series of shots before an uppercut sent Struve crumbling right before the bell.
1:39 p.m.: Its time for the UFC 254 featured prelim as Stefan Sturve takes on Tai Tuivasa. If you prefer slugfests then this will be the fight for you.
12:51 p.m.: You need to remember the name Shavkat Rakhmonov. He just steamrolled through Alex Oliveira to win by fist-round submission (guillotine choke). Rakhmonov showed great standup but had even better ground work in snatching Oliveira’s head, dropping to the mat and netting the submission for a successful UFC debut and remain undefeated in 13 fights. Give him a few more fights and he can easily be a top contender in a talent rich welterweight division.
12:30 p.m.: Da Un Jung and Sam Alvey battle to an entertaining split draw (29-28 Jung, 29-28 Alvey, 28-28). Heading into the third round, Alvey looked to be on his way to victory. But Jung tightened things up and dropped Alvey twice with sharp right elbows and busted the Canadian’s nose. The judge had to score the third round 10-8 which is absurd because Alvey was connecting often with the uppercut down the middle.
Noon ET: Welcome to Sporting News’ live coverage of UFC 254. The main event features one of the marquee stars in the sport, Khabib Nurmagomedov defending the lightweight title against interim titlist Justin Gaethje. It’s going to be an exciting day so grab the refreshments, get on the couch, relax and enjoy the ride.
UFC 254 undercard results
- Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve via knockout at 4:59 of the first round.
- Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira via submission (guillotine choke) at 4:40 of the first round.
- Da Un Jung and Sam Alvey go to a split draw (29-28 Jung, 29-28 Alvey, 28-28)
- Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua by TKO at 5:00 of the first-round.
- Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev via submission (armbar) at 3:00 of the first round.
Khabib vs. Gaethje start time
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 24
- Early prelims: 10:30 a.m. ET
- Prelims: Noon ET
- Main card: 2 p.m. ET
- Live stream: ESPN+
UFC 254 takes place Saturday, Oct. 24. Early prelims get underway at 10:30 a.m. ET, followed by prelims at noon and the main card pay-per-view at 2 p.m. ET.
UFC 254 fight card
- Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs. Justin Gaethje for Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title
- Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier; middleweights
- Alexander Volkov vs. Walt Harris; heavyweights
- Jacob Malkoun vs. Phillip Hawes; middleweights
- Lauren Murphy vs. Liliya Shakirova; women’s flyweights
- Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba; light heavyweights
- Stefan Struve vs. Tai Tuivasa; heavyweights
- Nathaniel Wood vs. Casey Kenney; bantamweight catchweight
- Alex Oliveira vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov; welterweights
- Da Un Jung vs. Sam Alvey; light heavyweights
- Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Sergey Morozov; bantamweights
- Liana Jojua vs. Miranda Maverick; women’s flyweights
- Joel Alvarez vs. Alexander Yakovlev; lightweights