Khabib Nurmagomedov regards his win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 as a psychological triumph. The Eagle believes that he is levels above his peers in the mental aspect of the fight game which empowered him to break Gaethje mentally when they fought.
During a February 22 interview with RT Sport MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov shared his account of his mid-fight interactions with The Highlight that ensured his victory. The UFC lightweight champion explained that the hot and arid region of Abu Dhabi is not easy to get acclimatized to. Having been through the process for the Dustin Poirier fight, Khabib said he knew Justin would be struggling to acclimatize to the climate and used this for his advantage.
"During the fight, I asked him, 'Acclimatization, isn't it?' (Justin said) 'No, no. It isn't.' And I was thinking to myself 'why are you replying to my questions? we are in a fight,'... I knew he just gave it up. So I pushed forward. He landed two to three more shots but with every single punch, he had less power. If I had dodged those shots, they would not have landed. But I walked through them just to break him mentally and when I took him down, he didn't even try to fight back. He gave up mentally. I won that fight not by physical reasons, but psychological," read the RT Sport transcript.
Khabib Nurmagomedov's claims are substantiated by the fact that Justin Gaethje is one of the most offensive-minded fighters in the UFC. The Highlight has been through some of the most gruelling wars in his 25-fight MMA career. Despite a strong NCAA Division 1 wrestling background, he has never resorted to wrestling to defend himself even in the most vulnerable moments due to his never-back-down approach to fighting. In the lead-up to UFC 254, Gaethje had mentioned on multiple occassions that he would not tap to any submission hold but failed to keep his composure when trapped in the triangle choke and ended up tapping before passing out.
Khabib Nurmagomedov had the worst training camp of his career for the Justin Gaethje fight
The win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 was Khabib Nurmagomedov's third successful title defense and his final appearance in the UFC octagon. He announced his retirement from professional MMA following the win. It was later revealed that mumps and a horrendous leg injury suffered by Khabib during the training camp could have potentially resulted in the bout cancellation. But Khabib Nurmagomedov chose to make the walk to the octagon amid the worst fight camp of his career and put on a near-perfect performance against a very elite opponent.
Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in the post-fight interview and has clarified on multiple occasions that he does not intend to fight professionally again.