Khabib Nurmagomedov has had a mixed 2020. He lost his father to Covid-19 and later paid tribute to his father after extending his winning streak to 29-0, dramatically retiring moments later.
The pandemic had caught several UFC fighters off-guard, but Khabib Nurmagomedov is not one of them. Having retained the lightweight title for a third time, retiring undefeated (29-0 in MMA, 13-0 in UFC), and becoming the owner of his own promotion, Khabib Nurmagomedov would have had the best year even amid COVID-19, if not for the untimely death of his father.
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib's father, lifelong mentor and trainer, passed away in July this year owing to COVID-related health complications. Before that, Khabib missed out on the opportunity of facing Tony Ferguson a fifth time, because of Coronavirus travel restrictions.
Despite the downfalls, Khabib Nurmagomedov still managed to have a massively successful year.
Here are the top five best moments of 'The Eagle' in 2020.
5. Starting his own MMA promotion, Eagle FC
Khabib Nurmagomedov has a plan to take MMA to the next level, and he is actively working towards it. With what he has done inside the octagon, Khabib has already left his mark huge enough to be remembered forever. But he wants to leave an even more significant legacy.
Khabib purchased Russian MMA promotion Gorilla Fighting Championship a few weeks after his last UFC fight and relaunched it after his ring name, Eagle Fighting Championship. Since then, the UFC lightweight champion has said that EFC has several tournaments scheduled at different locations of the Middle-East and Russia. He reportedly plans on taking EFC to several other destinations as well.
4. Being recognized as No. 1 sportsperson by All-Russian Public Poll
Khabib Nurmagomedov recently posted that the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center has recognized him as the best sportsman in all of Russia, as voted by the Russian people.
Khabib has reportedly secured the position with an overall 10 per cent vote. The UFC champion was chosen as the best above the Russian soccer captain Artem Dzyuba, tennis star Danill Medvedev, and skater Alina Zagitova.
Khabib said in his Instagram post:
"Today VTsIOM (All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center) has published the data of the national rating of the best sportsman in Russia! It is one thing when you are recognized by experts, trainers, fighters and specialists, and another thing is the recognition of the People. Thank you for being there. It would be almost impossible without you."
3. Beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254
Khabib Nurmagomedov made a brilliant third defence of his 155-pounds title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 and unified the lightweight title. It was initially supposed to be a fight with Tony Ferguson that has been in the making for years now, from long before he was even the lightweight champion.
But, proving the fans' fears right, it was cancelled for a fifth time as travel bans made it impossible for Khabib Nurmagomedov to reach the United States. Gaethje defeated Ferguson instead for the interim title, taking the title shot away from 'El Cucuy'.
However, Khabib was at his clinical best at UFC 254, submitting the fighter who had broken Tony Ferguson's 12-win streak. A little after a minute into round two, Khabib Nurmagomedov made Gaethje tap out with a triangle choke, before celebrating his win by offering respect to his late father. It almost seemed like Khabib had a more challenging time doing the post-fight interview than he had winning the fight.
After his win over Justin Gaethje, Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the MMA world with his retirement announcement. He said that this was his last fight here, and left the octagon keeping his fighting gloves in the middle.
His father's demise was the reason he cited for the unexpected decision.
"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."
The moment will be remembered for years to come, not only because it marked the end of one of the most glorious careers in UFC but also because of its sentimental value.
Not a lot of people can claim they have retired undefeated like Khabib Nurmagomedov can, in any sport of the world, let alone MMA. His current record is 29-0 in MMA and 13-0 in UFC, and there is a possibility he might be back to make it a square 30-0.
Although Dana White's confidence in Khabib's return should give hope to his fans, nothing is certain as of yet. Khabib Nurmagomedov had originally said no to any chance of returning but has recently said he might consider it. Still, only on one condition - his mother has to give her blessings.
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov becomes No. 1 UFC pound-for-pound fighter
Khabib Nurmagomedov said in his UFC 254 post-fight speech, where he announced his retirement, that he deserved to be made the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is still holding the belt and is in the USADA drug testing pool, which means he remains the lightweight champion.
If Khabib does make his way back to UFC and continues fighting, he might have a long reign at the top of the pound-for-pound list.Published 29 Dec 2020, 02:26 IST