Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS), the fighting pride of Dagestan, announced his retirement following a 2-round victory against Justin Gaethje (USA), defending his UFC Lightweight World Title at the United Arab Emirates.
The win was not a huge surprise, as Khabib was widely considered the best Lightweight Mixed Martial Artist in the world. But his retirement announcement came as a shock to the general public.
Khabib does not have much left to prove and is retiring healthy and unbeaten. But yet again, people were quickly to jump into the bandwagon of calling him the “Greatest of All Time” which -as we argued a couple of weeks ago when talking about basketball- is a very predictable and chrono-centric tendency triggered by recency bias, a cognitive bias.
Nevertheless, it is hard to argue that Nurmagomedov is the greatest UFC fighter of all time, when he literally was never even been ranked as the #1 of his time!
For the last years at least, it has been Jon Jones (USA) who has been considered as the best, and his 14 World Title fight wins since 2011 eclipse Nurmagomedov’s three, starting two years ago.
Let alone mentioning other fighters such as Georges St-Pierre (CAN), who was World Champion in two divisions and 13 World Title fight wins, without the doping controversy that Jones did have; just to throw a couple of names out there.
But while only saw Khabib ranked as the best Pound for Pound fighter in the world for the first time this morning (and in theory he should then be removed since he has retired), he leaves an enduring legacy on several grounds.
In the sporting side, the fact that he is in our view the best Lightweight MMA fighter until today including his big win against Connor McGregor (IRL), but also that he was a two-time Combat Sambo World Champion and two-times Champion at the North American Grappling Association.
But there is also the “beyond sport” where Khabib will have a long-lasting legacy. He has helped Dagestani fighters -who have previously excelled in the amateur echelons- to become professional fighters and improve their livelihood. Khabib has also been truthful to his personality and identity, including his Muslim side.
It has never seemed that his actions have been contrary to what he has preached. Quite the contrary. He has been respectful and, for example, has shown mercy to his rivals (MMA Junkie), and Muslim sport fans have probably not seen a representative of their faith they can rally behind to taht levle since Muhammad Ali (USA).
With a World-Championship-level MMA career that lasted for just two years and the rumored mega-fight against retired St-Pierre now tabled, it was unlikely to think he would retire.
But his promise to his mother that he would not fight without his late father -also his coach-, after he succumbed to Covid-19, just makes it very different to other retirement announcements we have heard (Ehem…McGregor).
This one seems for good. Let’s hope we still see Khabib around; he is a great man and ambassador of the best in sport.