Khabib Nurmagomedov Retired After Submitting Justin Gaethje At UFC 254

After Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) submitted Justin Gaethje (22-3) to retain the UFC lightweight belt in the main event of UFC 254 at The Arena, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the unbeaten champion retired from professional fighting. Nurmagomedov was emotional after the fight, his first since losing his father back in July.

Nurmagomedov and Gaethje spent much of the first round testing their distance and trading the occasional shot and the challenger firing away at the champ’s legs. Nurmagomedov spent the second half of the opening round walking the challenger down, keeping constant pressure while Gaethje responded with wild, off-target shots. After setting the pace on his feet, Nurmagomedov shot and took Gaethje to the ground, targeting an armbar to close the round.

Nurmagomedov kept the pressure on in the second, but it was Gaethje appearing to hurt the champ with repeated leg kicks. As soon as Gaethje any momentum, Nurmagomedov shot the legs and moved into a triangle choke for the submission win.

Gaethje claimed the interim belt when he stepped in as a late replacement for Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 249 against Tony Ferguson. In a wild sequence of events, Nurmagomedov-Ferguson was canceled for a fifth time after he left the United States to travel to the UAE, where it was assumed the event would take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was eventually re-routed to Russia due to travel restrictions and was forced out of the fight. Gaethje became the first fighter to TKO Ferguson, setting up Saturday afternoon’s main event.

Nurmagomedov’s last championship fight came in September 2019, when he overwhelmed Dustin Poirier and submitted the former interim champ in the third round.