On Saturday night in the UFC 254 main event, Nurmagomedov displayed his brilliance yet again as he choked out Justin Gaethje to retain his undisputed lightweight championship for the third time, which tied the all-time record in the division.
Afterward, the undefeated Russian announced his retirement from the sport, and White couldn’t do anything but celebrate one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the UFC octagon.
“He is the baddest motherf**ker on the planet,” White said about Nurmagomedov at the UFC 254 post-fight press conference. “Let’s start with there’s like a feeling out process for two minutes and then it’s on. Those two were going. The pressure that Khabib puts on you is unbelievable. Literally didn’t respect his punching power. Just walked right into everything and did what he wanted. When he started to go for the armbar in the first round, I’m like ‘oh my god he’s going to try to pull off an armbar.’
“Then the second round, he keeps the pressure on. For that submission, he locks it up, gets it and chokes him out. Unbelievable.”
Nurmagomedov was understandably emotional after his win as he performed for the first time following the tragic death of his father Abdulmanap earlier this year.
It turns out he was also facing physical issues when White later revealed that Nurmagomedov was suffering from an injury as he climbed into the cage to do battle with Gaethje on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
“What this guy’s been through, we’re all lucky we got to see him fight tonight,” White said. “I’m hearing rumors of other things that I didn’t know about that you guys will hear about when he comes out later I’m sure.
“Apparently, he was in the hospital, He broke his foot. Three weeks ago. So he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me. Never told anybody, walking around. I mean he is one of the toughest human beings on the planet.”
Considering the hardships he faced and the victory he delivered, White can’t help but praise Nurmagomedov for his performance at UFC 254 and the entire body of work the champ put up during his legendary career.
“He is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and you seriously have to start putting him up there at GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT,” White said.
While many fighters have retired from the sport only to return years or sometimes just a few months later, White doesn’t expect that to be the case for Nurmagomedov.
With a promise made to his mother that UFC 254 would be his last fight, White responded “I do” when asked if he believes this is the last time Nurmagomedov will ever compete.
“Let him take some time off – let him heal,” White said. “Not physically, but emotionally heal with what he’s going through from him losing his father. I said, we’re all lucky we got to see what we saw tonight.”