Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the world at UFC 254 on Saturday. Not by winning his title unification bout against Justin Gaethje, mind you. While Gaethje is one of the toughest fights you’ll find anywhere in the UFC, Khabib was the favorite going in. Beating the best of the best is what “The Eagle” has done these past few years.
No, Khabib shocked the world by retiring following the fight, exiting the sport a perfect 29-0.
Many expected that retirement to come one bout later, at 30-0. But the loss of his father, and a promise to his mother that Saturday would be his final fight, sped up the retirement process for the Dagestani fighter.
Khabib exited his time with the UFC saying that he wanted to be considered the number one pound-for-pound fighter. Fans and pundits will argue that, and his place in the endless Greatest of All Time debate, for years to come. His big wins came, of course, over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Gaethje. But “The Eagle” also flew the coop before facing Tony Ferguson, or promotional newcomer Michael Chandler. Or even a wild card like Charles Oliveira, an interesting stylistic match-up given his ability to fight off his back.
Following the fight, three other UFC legends of note gave their response to Khabib’s exit from the sport. Offering three similar takes.
Old rival Conor McGregor wished Khabib well, for his part. But added that he’d be carrying on despite the loss of a rematch he very much wanted.
“Good performance @TeamKhabib,” McGregor wrote on social media. “I will carry on. Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors.”
Former light heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones, meanwhile, wrote on social media that he wanted to “congratulate Khabib for an outstanding career. I know he made his father along with millions of fans around the world incredibly proud today. May God continue to bless him on his journey.”
However, he’d then add that he would “grant” Khabib pound-for-pound status until he earns the heavyweight title. Jones recently vacated his 205lb belt with an eye on moving up to heavyweight.
“Until I take that heavily (sic) crown, I grant you the spot. Enjoy Champ,” wrote Jones.
Speaking to ESPN, meanwhile, was Georges St. Pierre. GSP had been linked to a fight with Khabib at one point. It was a fight Khabib and his late father very much wanted to happen. But the UFC could never get the deal done, and the Canadian legend, one of the leading candidates for GOAT status, wound up retiring.
“Khabib is invincible now. He’s undefeated. It was a perfect career. There’s nothing we can say bad about him,” GSP told the outlet. “It’s a perfect career, like 29-0 and you retire on top with the best performance of his career. What do you want more? It was incredible. It was a perfect fight in a perfect career — as close as it gets.
Later, he urged Nurmagomedov to follow his heart. “Follow what makes you happy and what makes people who love (you) happy. No pressure. Take the right decision at the right time, and the possibilities for you are limitless. You can do whatever you want. Congratulations. What an amazing career. Man, it was a perfect fight and a perfect career that you have.”