Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in April 2018 to win the UFC lightweight championship. Incidentally, the fight was for a vacant title. Therefore Khabib Nurmagomedov did not ‘take the title’ from anyone.
Nurmagomedov was scheduled to take on interim champion Tony Ferguson for the undisputed title. However, Tony injured his knee in a freak accident, resulting in a last minute replacement. ‘The Eagle’ put on a dominant performance, winning all five rounds against a game Iaquinta to capture the vacant title.
But Tony Ferguson’s injury was not the only anomaly of UFC 223. There were numerous bizarre turn of events that led to Iaquinta fighting for the title.
After Ferguson’s omission from the main event, reigning featherweight champion Max Holloway was chosen as Khabib Nurmagomedov’s opponent. However, on the day of the weigh-ins, Holloway was deemed medically unfit to compete and removed from the fight.
In a separate turn of events, former champion Anthony Pettis’ fight against Michael Chiesa was scrapped. Chiesa had suffered multiple cuts due to Conor McGregor’s attack on the UFC bus.
Pettis, therefore, was chosen as Khabib’s third opponent. He weighed in at 155.2 pounds and though given extra time, decided not to cut weight further and did not weigh in again.
Khabib was without an opponent for the third time.
Next, Paul Felder decided to step in on short notice and take on Khabib, but NYSAC declined the fight due to Felder not being a ranked lightweight. Instead, Felder’s opponent Al Iaquinta was chosen as Khabib’s fifth opponent within a week and the fifth time was the charm, as the fight finally took place.
Incidentally, it was Conor McGregor’s inactivity which set the ball rolling to crown a new champion at 155-pounds.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was lauded globally for not backing out of the fight against any of the five opponents. The win against Iaquinta was his last via a decision as he ended his UFC career with three consecutive submission wins.
Has Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA?
At UFC 254, Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the MMA world when he announced his retirement after submitting Justin Gaethje in the second round.
Since then Khabib has mentioned that he has ‘no competitive desire’ left in MMA.
He has been concentrating on his various businesses since. He recently launched Eagle mobile, a network provider service, in Moscow.
He has even purchased Gorilla Fighting Championship in Russia and renamed it Eagle Fighting Championship.
While he has been clear about his retirement, many believe that Khabib Nurmagomedov might return to the octagon one last time to fight Georges St. Pierre.Published 09 Jan 2021, 12:10 IST