Khabib Nurmagomedov may not be the “Eagle” we’re typically covering, but his performance at UFC 254 and his career need to be paid proper attention and respect.
He ended his UFC career after securing a submission victory over Justin Gaethje in their lightweight title unification fight. That same career ends at a record of 29-0 with 19 wins coming by of stoppage. This career is one that may go down as the greatest in the history of the sport.
First, Khabib’s run at the lightweight division is the most dominant and the only truly unbroken streak in the history of the promotion. Jon Jones had his issues with drugs and legal troubles, Anderson Silva dangled the carrot a little to close to himself and was knocked out cold by Chris Weidman, and Georges St. Pierre famously lost to Matt Serra.
Khabib didn’t just simply never lose, he was never close to losing. Every one of his decision wins, in and out of the UFC was unanimous. Against the highest level of competition, Khabib shined the brightest. In battles with four world champions, he defeated Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje by submission and thoroughly trounced Rafael Dos Anjos. He did the same to top contenders like Al Iaquinta, Michael Johnson, and Edson Barboza.
The quiet Khabib was not loud or brash. His most famous line was “send me location” which has become synonymous with saying “anytime anywhere”. He was the UFC’s first Muslim champion and one of 3 Russian champions in the promotion’s history. His 4 victories in lightweight title fights tie him for the most in UFC history with Benson Henderson and BJ Penn. He’s also the only fighter to win three consecutive title fights by submission. This caps a 12 fight run at lightweight in the UFC, which is the longest active streak in the UFC and the longest streak in the division’s history, tied with Tony Ferguson. It would be 13 but his fight against Darrell Horcher was at a catchweight of 160.
His 13 fight wins streak is the longest to start a UFC career since Anderson Silva’s who won 16 straight. His 29 fight total win streak is the most among all active UFC fighters. He’s scored the 2nd most takedowns among UFC lightweights with 59 and got a UFC record 21 of them in one fight. He was also the longest-reigning UFC lightweight champion at 931 days.
When you consider the numbers and the competition, Khabib’s career in the UFC isn’t just good, it’s legendary. Khabib didn’t simply beat his opponents, he would defeat them while telling them he was the only person who deserved to win. His wins were brutal, almost hard to watch affairs. He systematically would destroy every man set in front of him. His run was this generation’s version of Mike Tyson from the late 80s.
Will Khabib stay retired? He’s made a promise to his mother that this is was his final fight, the only ring walk he would make without his late father by his side. It is unknown as to when in the combat sports world we’ll see this kind of run again. When a destructive force is able to focus their energy directly into combat. No distractions, not caught up in trash talk. Just a will to win violently.
When it comes down to it, if Khabib stays retired then he’s a legend. The only question is if he stays retired and an undefeated legend.