THAT scene of Khabib Nurmagomedov sobbing uncontrollably in the center of the Octagon right after submitting Justin Gaethje will be a powerful, poignant image etched in memories of fight fans forever.
One of the greatest fighters to ever do it in the Octagon, letting his tears flow freely and unabashedly right before announcing his retirement from the sport on account of the death of his father, reminded me about one important thing in life: Context.
Everything in life is tethered to its context. Why do we work? Or study? It’s because we want to provide a better life for our family. Or perhaps, it gives you a sense of fulfillment or joy. And that’s the context upon which those acts are done or fulfilled.
Without context, you lose direction or focus.
For Khabib, his father Abdulmanap provided context for his fighting career.
At UFC 229 when he defeated Conor McGregor and went after the latter’s cornerman, Khabib admitted during the post-fight interview that although his father was proud of his victory, he was gonna get a smacking from his father for starting that riot after the bout.
His father taught him everything he knew. He wrestled bears when he was a kid. He trained in combat sambo and judo. Not that it was a one-way street. He relished making his father happy and basked in his adulation. With his father gone, that competitive fire was extinguished.
Without him, he saw no reason to continue fighting and wanted to move on to other things.
CAREER. Khabib was already on top of most pound-for-pound lists, but during the post-fight interview, he made it his last request of the UFC to make him No. 1.
Well if he wasn’t already, that fight sure cemented his place.
Gaethje was considered to be a live underdog coming into the fight and there were even some who predicted Gaethje would take over the late rounds, owing to what they perceived to be a distracted, unfocused Khabib who had problems making weight.
Well, they were dead wrong and Khabib proceeded to do just as he had promised—dismantle Gaethje and make him quit.
From the first round, he went after Gaethje and dictated a frenetic pace. He didn’t even mind eating some of the leg kicks and right hands coming in. All he cared about was getting to Gaethje and imposing his will.
In the second round, at just around the four-minute mark, Khabib took down Gaethje, got his back and transitioned easily into a full mount. A few seconds later, he clamped on a triangle choke and that was all she wrote.
Looking back at his career, Khabib truly had nothing left to prove in his division. He had practically cleaned it up, dispatching of the likes of Conor McGregor, Al Laquinta and Dustin Poirer, with surprising ease.
This is truly a fighter most fight fans will be gutted to see riding off into the sunset. Thanks for the memories, Khabib. And thanks also for reminding us that everything we do in life has context.
VERBATIM. “I promised my mother this will be my last fight. And if I give my word, I have to follow it.” - Khabib Nurmagomedov (post-fight interview UFC 254).
LAST ROUND. It’s on “agaw” Aloha Navarro who recently celebrated her birthday. Cheers!