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Morning Report: Khabib Nurmagomedov addresses his retirement: ‘People can’t understand it, but what can you do?’

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Khabib Nurmagomedov Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

At UFC 254, Khabib Nurmagomedov turned in the performance of his career, submitting Justin Gaethje in the second round to retain his lightweight title. The performance was made even more impressive by the fact that this was the first fight for Nurmagomedov since the passing of his father, Abdulmanap, earlier this year due to COVID-19. It also turned out to be his last, as immediately after the bout, Khabib announced his retirement from the sport, saying that he made a promise to his mother and that he would not do this again without his father.

It was an unexpected decision from the lightweight champion and, given the circumstances, one that many speculated may not be permanent. Among those who feel that Khabib may not be as retired as he seems is UFC President Dana White who earlier this week said that Khabib would not be stripped of his title at this time and that “The Eagle” was considering one more bout. But though Dana White says that, Khabib may not be on the same page.

In a meeting with acting Head of Dagestan Sergei Melikov (video and translation from RT Sport), Khabib spoke about the emotions in the lead up to UFC 254 and his decision to walk away from the sport, and it certainly seems like the champion is not intending to return.

“This fight was like no other,” Khabib said. “The emotions in this fight were completely different. Everything was completely different without my father. I was offered the fight right after everything happened. I had the decision to accept it or turn it down, nobody knew about this, or retire, or I could come back, fight and then retire. Now I tell the people close to me that aren’t happy with me retiring that even if I fought 10 more times, I’d still have to face that decision. This decision could come up when I’m 32, 34, 35. It’s a hard decision because I’ve been fighting all my life. I’ve been on the mats for as long as I remember. It’s difficult to leave and do something else. People can’t understand it, but what can you do?”

If Nurmagomedov really is done, he goes out on top of the sport. Khabib is currently the top ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and is widely considered to be the greatest lightweight of all time. At only 32 years old, he has amassed a perfect MMA record of 29-0, and has only lost 2 rounds in his entire career. On top of that, he exits the sport on the back of his greatest performance, dominating the man many people considered to be his toughest challenge. It was a performance made all the more impressive due to the myriad issues Khabib had in the lead up to UFC 254, which included an extended hospital stay.

“I have many supporters in not just Dagestan but all of Russia and around the world,” Khabib said. “I have a responsibility to them, that responsibility worried me. I had serious injuries. I was hospitalized for five days in mid-September. Then I came back and broke my toe. Those words about overcoming yourself are true. If a person doesn’t break psychologically, it will be hard to break them physically because the mind breaks before bones.”

Nurmagomedov’s hospital stay was reportedly due to a case of the mumps. But neither illness, injury, or the passing of his father could ultimately derail Nurmagomedov, and the lightweight champion gives a lot of credit to his fans for their support.

“Everything that happened to me psychologically before this fight gave me strength I can’t describe, inside and outside of the octagon, during my weight cut and preparation,” Khabib said. “A big factor in that strength was the immense support of my fans. My father and I always used to meet fans when we arrived at the airport. This time we thought it would be best not to gather a lot of people. Given this chance, I’d like to thank them for the emotional support. Dagestan doesn’t always show the best image on TV and the internet, (so) I get a lot of motivation when my victories bring positivity to our people.”


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