The Eagle Has Landed
At the conclusion of his recent vanquishing of UFC stalwart Justin Gaethje just this past Saturday,October the 24th, 2020 at UFC 254, Khabib “the Eagle” Nurmagomedov made an unexpected announcement: he would be retiring from the UFC and from mixed martial arts competition.
At only 32 years of age, Khabib is still very much in his athletic prime. Indeed, he certainly looked it after a hard fought match against the heavy handed Gaethje. Nurmagomedov had to eat more than a few leg kicks that would land solidly during the match, but in the end his impeccable wrestling prowess and submission game would give him the “W” over Gaethje.
At less than the halfway mark of round two, Khabib had moved to mount after taking down Gaethje. From there he briefly threatened with a triangle armlock, before smoothly transitioning to a triangle choke, as he took advantage of his opponent’s upward momentum as Justin fought to get back to his feet to defend the armlock. Khabib would sink his leg deep around Justin’s neck, figure-fouring his legs to lock in the triangle choke, and then he would skillfully hook Justin’s near leg with his arm — a critical detail many fighters, even those with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu background — neglect. By hooking Gaethje’s leg he would prevent him from being able to extend it to stand and regain his posture — possibly powering out and escaping the choke. The end result of this submission excellence was an unconscious Gaethje, with the official stop coming at 1:34 of round 2.
I, for one, am very sorry to see Khabib go. He was my favorite fighter actively competing in the UFC, and I believe I speak for many of his thousands of fans around the world when I say that we will sorely miss him ragdolling grown men around the cage with his unstoppable wrestling.
Sadly, Khabib doesn’t “need” to compete anymore. He has literally cleaned out the UFC lightweight division, beating everyone save Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson, whom Gaethje himself had already dismantled this past May at UFC 249. With his perfect 29–0 record he has doubtlessly made a lot of money; and due to his spartan lifestyle and humble nature, one can’t imagine Khabib blowing his money on sports cars, mansions, and yachts like so many other prize-fighters have done. Perhaps more importantly, with his climb to the top of the MMA landscape, he has cemented himself as one of the greatest fighters ever to compete in the UFC — in the process becoming a national hero in Russia, not to mention his native Dagestan, where he is revered and loved.
It is this writer’s opinion that Khabib will likely stay active in the world of wrestling and mixed martial arts competition by transitioning to a coaching and mentorship role, much as his father — the renowned Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who passed away tragically this past July — did for him. We should be thankful for the knowledge that the elder Nurmagomedov passed along to his son, but I believe that Khabib will, in turn, pass along the knowledge and skills he has acquired to a new generation of Russian and Dagestani fighters. There are big things coming out of Dagestan, and I believe the current — and the future — crop of fighters from that region will continue to captivate and thrill the fans with their talents, especially if they have “the Eagle” as their guide and coach.