The Eagle has… Retired?

Dayne McElwee, Assistant Sport Editor

In what was already an excellent fight card on Saturday evening, UFC upped the ante by having one of the most dominant fighters in history on the card. Of course, I am talking about Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov taking on what many thought would be his biggest challenge yet, Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. If anything could prepare us for the emotional rollercoaster that was this fight, it was the rest of the main card before it. From Magomed Ankalaev’s nasty KO victory over Ion Cutelaba to Robert Whittaker’s absolutely dominating performance over the number three Middleweight contender Jared Cannonier, this card had everything a fight fan could want. The fight for the undisputed lightweight championship belt only lasted two rounds, however, those two rounds did not speak to the true story of this belt. It wasn’t until directly after the fight that we saw the real story here. Khabib now has an astounding MMA record of 29 – 0, but this incredible feat did not come without hardship. The Dagestani Russian wrestler lost something very important to his fighting game and everyday life this summer. His father and longtime cornerman, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away on July 3, 2020, due to complications involving COVID-19. Khabib couldn’t be seen in a gym, let alone an octagon, without his father by his side. They were an unstoppable duo that wreaked havoc on the UFC lightweight division. A duo comparable to Cus D’Amato and Mike Tyson, Abdulmanap and Khabib were practically inseparable.

Immediately after his submission victory by triangle choke over Justin Gaethje, “The Eagle” was overcome with emotion. He signaled his corner to stay where they were and fell to the ground where he sat sobbing for minutes. This was one of the first times we saw Khabib show emotion about his father’s death, and I believe this is where everyone gained a particular level of respect for the champion. Even if you didn’t like him before, you had to respect what he had just done. When he finally gathered himself enough to get up, he started to unwrap his gloves. As avid fighter fans know, this only occurs when someone is hanging their gloves up and retiring from the fight game. Khabib went on to give an extremely heartfelt speech that had another message other than “chasing your dreams.” He addressed his last opponent, Gaethje, and said, “I know a lot of things about you, because one day, it’s going to happen. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow, you never know. Today is my last fight here in the UFC. It was my father’s dream.” His father’s dream propelled him to be the most dominant UFC champion right now and the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Another message Khabib wanted to make clear, was that everything he did in his career was to be the absolute best to ever step in the octagon. He always left it all on the floor. Against Edson Barboza, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Gaethje, it didn’t matter the opponent he faced. Khabib Nurmagomedov just wanted to make his father proud. While Abdulmanap wasn’t able to be there for his all-time belt defense, everyone knows he is proud of his son. In an unforgettable moment, Khabib spoke to his mother, who told him she did not want him to fight at all without his father in the corner. While he agreed to this, he had a job to finish. There was doubt in his name still, and that had to be silenced to finish what he and his father started. He dominated 
Gaethje and in an absolutely stunning moment for the sports world altogether, Khabib left his gloves in the octagon and retired an undefeated, undisputed lightweight champion of the world. The Eagle has returned to his nest.