The undefeated and undisputed lightweight champion reigned supreme yet again with a dominant showcase to put Gaethje away by triangle choke submission with the end of the fight coming at 1:34 in the second round. It was the first time Nurmagomedov performed following the tragic death of his father Abdulmanap earlier this year.
Moments after moving to 29-0 in his career, Nurmagomedov took off his gloves and laid them down in the middle of the octagon as he announced his retirement from the sport.
“Today I want to say this was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov announced. “No way I’m going to come here without my father. It was first time after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin, I talk with my mother three days. She doesn’t want me to go fight without my father but I promised her it was going to be my last fight.
“If I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”
There was no doubt Nurmagomedov was dealing with a wave of emotions after last competing in Abu Dhabi with his father by his side last September when he defeated Dustin Poirier. Thirteen months later, Nurmagomedov returned to defend his title with a heavy heart while facing off with a human wrecking machine in Gaethje.
Despite being known for his wrestling and tremendous ground acumen, Nurmagomedov seemed completely at ease on his feet while coming after Gaethje with relentless aggression in the opening round. Nurmagomedov appeared to have Gaethje flustered in the early going but the former World Series of Fighting champion was more than happy to fire back with his signature power and crippling leg kicks.
Before the first five minute session came to a close, Gaethje connected with a couple of stiff punches that led to Nurmagomedov taking the fight down the ground for the first time. The Russian champion went for a late armbar but time ran out before he could secure the submission.
After exchange a few more strikes with Gaethje on the feet as the second round got underway, Nurmagomedov returned to his grappling, which immediately paid off.
Once Nurmagomedov got the fight down to the round, he quickly transitioned into the mount but rather than raining down shots from above the future UFC Hall of Famer set up a triangle choke.
Nurmagomedov rolled to his back to secure the submission but despite Gaethje actually tapping out several times, referee Jason Herzog didn’t see it and allowed the fight to continue. A moment later, Gaethje was unconscious and the main event finally came to an end.
Afterwards, Nurmagomedov celebrated with his team while reveling in the moment as he defended his title for the third time — tying the all-time record in the UFC lightweight division — and then laying down his gloves to signify he has competed for the final time.
Nurmagomedov only had one more request before calling it a career.
“Only one thing what I want from UFC — Tuesday, you guys have to put me No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world because I deserve this,” Nurmagomedov said.
Considering the unbelievable resume Nurmagomedov put together in his stellar career, it’s going to be awfully hard to deny him that honor.
As for Gaethje, he came up short in his attempt to beat Nurmagomedov on Saturday but he was gracious in defeat as he paid tribute to his opponent.
“I felt alive. That’s why I step in here,” Gaethje said. “The only reason I stuck here was to give this man praises. I know he made his father so proud.”