On October 24, 2020, the main title fight at UFC254 ended with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s career highlight triangle choke submission against Justin Gaethje and Khabib’s announcement of his retirement from professional fighting. Prior to his post-fight interview, Khabib laid down his gloves in the middle of the octagon, a tradition held by mixed martial artists (MMA) to signify their retirement.
This announcement came as a shock to the MMA world. Khabib had made it known throughout his career that his goal was to reach a record of 30-0. However, in the wake of his father’s death, Khabib felt that his time as a fighter had come to an end. As reported by Insider, Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away due to Covid-19 complications at age 57. Khabib had cited Abdulmanap as his main reason for success.
In the post-fight interview with UFC, a distraught Khabib announced, “Today, I want to say that this was my last fight. No way I am going to come here without my father. After what happened with my father, when the UFC called me, I talked with my mother for three days. She said she doesn’t want me to go and fight without my father. I promised her that this is going to be my last fight and I have to keep my word. This was my last fight here.”
Khabib’s fighting career and relationship with his mentor and father Abdulmanap began somewhere in the impoverished hills of Dagestan, Russia. A young Khabib Nurmagomedov was entertaining his father and friends by grappling with a bear. This sort of irrational and unorthodox violence is the environment that Khabib was forced to grow up in, and only begins to explain what goes into crafting a seemingly flawless mixed martial artist.
A decade later, the young bear wrestler grew into a successful and undefeated professional fighting career, boasting a record of 29 wins and zero losses. He lost only one round in his entire career. This is an astonishing set of statistics that showcase why Khabib is now being considered one of the greatest “pound-for- pound” fighters of all time. Behind Khabib’s discipline and focus was his father, an elite level sambo wrestler and judo practitioner. Abdulmanap passed down his knowledge to Khabib, ensuring that his son was constantly evolving and challenged in his training. The only instances of Abdulmanap being absent from Khabib’s matches were when Khabib fought in the United States. This highlights what an integral piece of Khabib’s professional fighting career his father was, and a testament to their relationship.
Khabib’s father told Insider that the dream matchup for his son would be against George St. Pierre (GSP), the French-Canadian welterweight and middleweight, widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Khabib’s wishes fell in line with his fathers. He told ESPN that GSP is one of his idols and the epitome of a champion. He mentioned he would love to fulfill his father’s wishes and compete against George.
Although Khabib promised his mother he’s done fighting, there is still a possibility that his father’s wishes will supersede and push Khabib to come back for one last fight—one last fight against his toughest opponent yet, the one chosen by his late father, mentor, and head coach. Whether this bout will be scheduled to happen sooner or later is up in the air, but one thing is for sure: Abdulmanap had a tremendous amount of respect for GSP and that is the fight that will place the bow on Khabib’s career and solidify his legacy while paying homage to his father.