UFC president Dana White has paid a glowing tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after the Russian announced his retirement following his win over Justin Gaethje, while Jon Jones says he will willingly vacate number one spot in the pound-for-pound rankings.
Khabib was fighting for the first – and last – time following the death of his father and coach, Abdulmanap, back in the summer and produced a masterclass against Gaethje at Fight Island, winning by technical submission.
After the American had tapped out, Khabib immediately burst into tears in the middle of the octagon and revealed he had promised his mother this would be his final fight.
White is disappointed that UFC will lose a superstar like Khabib but respects his decision and will not try to change his mind, also revealing that he broke his foot just three weeks before the bout but fought on regardless.
Asked if he knew Khabib would retire beforehand, White said: ‘No. He was in the octagon and we were all just standing around listening and you can tell.
‘It almost smelt like an upset tonight, the way that he reacted at the weigh-ins, the way that he acted when he was walking out tonight. He didn’t look like himself, breathing heavy and taking deep breaths. But wow!’
Asked if he thinks Khabib might change his mind, White continued: ‘Listen, what this guy’s been through, we’re all lucky that we got to see him fight tonight.
‘And I’m hearing rumours of other things that I didn’t know about that you guys will hear about when he comes out later, I’m sure. Apparently he was in the hospital, he broke his foot three weeks ago.
‘So he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken, or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me.
‘Never told anybody. Walking around. I mean, he is one of the toughest human beings on the planet and he is the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
‘And seriously you have to start putting him up there with GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT.’
On if he will try to convince Khabib to rethink his retirement, White added: ‘I don’t ever… listen, when guys want to fight they want to fight. If they don’t want to fight, they don’t want to fight.
‘Let him take some time off, let him heal – not physically, but emotionally heal. With what he’s going through, losing his father, I said we’re all lucky we got to see what we saw tonight.’
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