by Senji Torrey
Media Production Editor
On Oct. 24, UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov fought in the final professional fight of his 12-year career. The man known as “The Eagle” soared, solidifying his place as the best pound for pound fighter ever.
Entering his final bout against Justin Gaethje, Nurmagomedov almost seemed like the underdog. With the recent passing of his father Abdulmanap, Nurmagomedov could not muster up the energy that he once had. Despite his justifiably distraught nature, Nurmagomedov took care of business in the ring. He took down Gaethje — a fighter who previously had a 100% finish rate — in two rounds, which culminated in Nurmagomedov securing a lethal triangle choke which Gaethje was forced to submit to.
After the fight, Nurmagomedov’s emotions took hold, and tears fell from his face as he answered his interview questions. He acknowledged that his mother was worried for him, saying “Today…[is] my last fight. There’s no way I am [going to] come here without my father…I talk[ed] with my mother [for] three days. She [didn’t] want me to fight without father, but I promised her it was going to be my last fight.”
“I just wanted to become champion with the guidance of my father… If you have parents be close to them, that’s all. I only have one parent left, my mom, and I want to spend more time with her.”
As a lightweight fighter, Nurmagomedov entered into an extremely difficult weight-division. However, he quickly showed that he was more than capable of being an excellent UFC fighter. Throughout his first five years, Nurmagomedov didn’t lose a single round of fighting.
His reputation quickly grew from simply another newcomer underdog to a ruthless mauler. This notoriety carried Nurmagomedov to his first UFC event showcase in 2012, where he submitted up-and-comer Kamal Shalorus in the third round. After this fight, Nurmagomedov was definitely on the map. In his next fight against Gleison Tibau in UFC 148, Nurmagomedov won by unanimous decision.
However, these two fights paled in comparison to his next fight against Thiago Tavares, where Nurmagomedov was placed on the main card. Sensing the weight and importance of this opportunity, he ended the fight with Tavares in less than two minutes, finishing him with an onslaught of elbows. When the fight ended and the scoresheet was tallied, Tavares only had two significant hits on “The Eagle,” while Nurmagomedov had 21.
From there, Nurmagomedov became an icon, and in 2018, he finally got his title shot for Lightweight Champion with a fight against Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Though he could not finish the American, Nurmagomedov won all five rounds and dominated the fight with 352 hits on Iaquinta. After this, Nurmagomedov would fight many top contenders such as Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, but he never let go of the belt that he had worked so hard to earn.
Nurmagomedov’s final request from the UFC was to put him as the best pound for pound fighter in the world, and with a career as immaculate as his, “The Eagle” should have no problem flying to the top of yet another leaderboard.
(Sources: ESPN, RT Sports, UFC)