Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement is official and the will-he won’t-he talk of a comeback can finally be put to bed.
The Russian gave fans so many incredible moments and it seems a perfect time to reflect on his achievements.
Casual viewers would often groan at wrestlers sucking the life out of a fight but Khabib changed all that.
His mauling of opponents, dry sense of humour and supreme self-confidence made him a superstar, especially in Russia and the Middle East where he is worshipped.
Here are Khabib’s top moments in the UFC…
Khabib Nurmagomedov has officially retired from MMA with a perfect, undefeated record
A sign of things to come…
Kamal Shalorus had a forgettable UFC career but years from now will be the answer to a very niche quiz question.
He was the man fed to a young, hungry Khabib on the Dagestani’s UFC debut in 2012.
And Khabib showed more than a glimpse of what was to come. The fresh-faced Russian was just 23 at the time and fighting an experienced man almost two decades his senior.
The striking was unorthodox at best, sloppy at worst but the foundation of Khabib’s game has always been his frightening ability on the ground.
Khabib defeated Kamal Shalorus (right) in his UFC debut and never lost a fight in the company
In the third round, he secured another takedown of Shalorus, transitioned to mount like a hot knife through butter and forced the Iranian to tap out for the first time in his career.
‘I had a strategy, I was working on it. I devised it with my father back in Russia and with the help of my team I was able to get it done,’ he reflected afterwards in the cage.
‘I had some butterflies in my stomach today but with the help of God I did it.’
Sometimes the pace Khabib put on opponents had them gasping for air but he had enough in the tank to speak to them while pouring on the punishment.
It was incredible television to watch him manhandle opponents while trash-talking simultaneously.
The first major example of this came against Michael Johnson. Khabib had won the first six fights of his UFC career and was really making a name for himself.
At UFC 205 in 2016, he had Johnson down on the mat and was landing some fearsome ground and pound.
The cageside microphones picked him up, telling Johnson: ‘Give up, Michael. Give up. You have to give up. I need title shot. You know this, I deserve it. I tell everybody I deserve this. Hey, I need my title.’
Then in between rounds, Khabib started yelling toward Dana White: ‘Hey, hey! Be careful, I’m going to smash your boy. I know who I am, I know.’
‘Your boy’, of course referred to Conor McGregor…
The biggest fight in UFC history
The build-up to Conor McGregor vs Khabib went on for months and was at times incredibly toxic.
The Irishman used race and religion to bait his nemesis and their rivalry outside the cage was underlined when McGregor flew to New York with an entourage and attacked a bus with Khabib sitting inside among other fighters.
His actions were widely condemned but then used by the UFC as promotional material for UFC 229, not that it needed much promoting.
Khabib’s most significant win came against his nemesis Conor McGregor at UFC 229
McGregor, the biggest star MMA has ever known, against his arch rival, one of the most dominant fighters in history.
Thousands of Irish fans descended on Las Vegas and painted it green for a week and the excitement inside T-Mobile Arena was off the charts.
Khabib dominated and although McGregor had his moments, he was well beaten in the end, tapping out in the fourth round.
If that was Khabib’s best moment in the cage, it was soon followed by one of his worst.
Nurmagomedov leapt the cage and McGregor was attacked in wild scenes back in 2018
There was so much bad blood between the pair that he was still raging even after securing victory. Khabib leapt the cage and attacked McGregor’s team-mate Dillon Danis, sparking a mass brawl.
His own team-mates jumped into the octagon and threw punches at McGregor in chaotic scenes. It was an ugly end to an extraordinary night but in Khabib’s mind at least, the job was done and McGregor silenced.
It remains the best selling UFC event in history, with 2.4 million buying the pay-per-view in the US alone.
His father in his corner
Khabib’s relationship with his father was extremely strong. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov is seen as the godfather of MMA in Russia and trained his son almost from infancy.
The footage of him wrestling a bear cub when he was a child still does the rounds online and his father was with him almost every step of the way.
But many of Khabib’s fights in the US went ahead without Abdulmanap in his corner as he was denied a US visa for undisclosed reasons.
Khabib’s late father Abdulmanap was able to corner him in Abu Dhabi for a title defence
So when his son defended the 155-pound title in Abu Dhabi against Dustin Poirier, it was a chance for the pair to be reunited.
‘Father gives me good energy all the time, he is not only my coach, he is my father first of all,’ the champion said at the time.
During the post-fight interview, Khabib grabbed his father and made sure he was front and centre alongside him.
It was a special moment Khabib could share and tragically proved to be the last time the pair would be in the cage together.
Abdulmanap died following complications after contracting coronavirus last year and his passing was a huge reason for Khabib calling time on his career.
Khabib showed his prowess on the ground by locking in the rear-naked choke on Poirier
Demolition of Gaethje
Only in the aftermath of last year’s win was it possible to fully appreciate what Khabib had overcome.
Two broken bones in his foot, the grief over his father’s death and a brutal weight cut all contrived to make an already tough test look even more difficult.
Gaethje had obliterated Tony Ferguson to earn his shot and many felt his leg kicks and wrestling defence could make him the make to hand Khabib his first defeat.
But Khabib delivered one of his best performances, fuelled by emotion, he was able to execute his usual gameplan to perfection.
The victory over Justin Gaethje was one of Khabib’s most impressive performances
He put Gaethje to sleep in the second round and was immediately overcome, crying on the octagon floor.
It was then that it became clear Khabib’s intent was to hang up his gloves.
He was given a standing ovation by the media and staff present in an otherwise empty arena on Yas Island.
The win capped off a superb trio of victories against his top contenders and meant there was no credible threat to his belt anymore. Despite being in his prime aged 32, in competitive terms, it felt like a natural conclusion.
The Dagestani retired from the UFC following his dominant win and is not coming back
Becoming pound-for-pound No 1
One of the goals Khabib and his father set out to achieve was to become the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
And that win over Gaethje helped him achieve just that. Much to Jon Jones’ chagrin, the Dagestani was elevated by the UFC to top spot.
He’ll be removed from it now that his retirement has been made official but seeing his name at the top of the list was a massive moment for Khabib.
At the time he reflected: ‘It was work of my life, I never got anything easy, and nothing was given to me because I’m nice guy.
‘Hard work, hope for Allah and patience, this three ingredient helps me to get successful, and of course, control and advises from my Father, who invested in me a lot of time and work.’
Khabib wrote an emotional message on Instagram after becoming pound-for-pound No 1