Khabib Nurmagomedov announces retirement after wrapping up Fight Island 2 with UFC 254 win over Justin Gaethje

In this Sept. 7, 2019, file photo, Russia's Khabib Nurmagomedov, right, fights with Dustin Poirier, of Lafayette, US, during a lightweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 242 in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP file photo)
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Updated 25 October 2020

Khabib Nurmagomedov announces retirement after wrapping up Fight Island 2 with UFC 254 win over Justin Gaethje

  • The Russian Lightweight champion ends UFC career with clean record of 13 wins and no losses
  • Nurmagomedov's bout with Gaethje was his first fight since the death of his father and lifelong coach in July

DUBAI: The final night of Fight Island 2 appropriately delivered a historic, end-of-an-era moment as Khabib Nurmagomedov called time on a faultless career after defeating Justin Gaethje in their UFC 254 Lightweight bout in Abu Dhabi.

The last of a five-event series delivered on the expectations with the  popular Russian defeating his American opponent via a triangle choke at 1:34 of round 2 at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Forum. Immediately afterwards, having broken down in tears, he announced his retirement to the watching world before thanking his team and fans. He also paid tribute to his father who had passed away on July 3 due to coronavirus complications.

“Thank you for these guys, these guys with me, been with my father for more than 10 years. All my team, AKA with coach Javier, I love him so much, all my team,” he said. “Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father. It was the first time, after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin. I talked with my mother for three days, she didn’t want that I go fight without my father. I promised her, it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”

Khabib defeated Justin Gaethje and then announced his retirement.

Nurmagomedov, 32, then demanded that he be acknowledged as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, before name-checking all those who had helped along the way in his UFC career.

“[I’m the] UFC undisputed, undefeated lightweight champion, 13-0, 13 in UFC, 29 in all pro MMA career,” he added. “I think I deserve it. One more thing, I want to say thank you Lorenzo Fertitta, thank you Dana, Hunter, all guys. Thank you so much, and of course I don’t forget about Joe Silva who signed me here in UFC. Joe Silva, thank you. All this UFC team, everybody around the world, this whole pandemic stuff, they are doing a great show. Thank you so much Justin. Justin, 2016 I remember when I cut weight, you helped me a lot. Thank you, brother. I know you are a great man, I know how you take care of your people. I know a lot of things about you, because of your parents, because one day, it’s going to happen. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow, you never know.”

Ahead of the main event, the Australian Robert Whittaker beat Jared Cannonier of the US via unanimous decision in a Middleweight bout.

“I thought it was a very good fight,” the 30-year-old winner said. “I had a very good game plan set out, me and my team have worked diligently for that and it worked flawlessly, I thought I controlled the entire fight.”

“I thought it played out like I thought it would,” Whittaker added. “It’s a fight, we’re throwing punches, they’re going to land sometimes. He’s a tough guy, he was in it from the start to the end and it was a privilege to fight him. Honestly, it’s a blessing to be able to work in these crazy times, it’s amazing. How professional everything is, how professional the UFC have things set up, is amazing and I’m truly blessed.”

Phillip Hawes of the US celebrates his win over the Australian Jacob Malkoun

The Russian Alexander Volkov meanwhile needed two rounds to score a TKO victory over the American Walt Harris in their Heavyweight fight.

“I expected to finish him in the second round, but I was close in the first round too,” he said. “[The] fight went how I felt it would. Before this fight, they said that he is one of the best strikers in the heavyweight division, I showed that this is not true, he didn’t touch me in this fight. We’ll keep striking, working on wrestling, everything too and we’ll show everyone that I am the best in the heavyweight division.

In their Middleweight bout Phillip Hawes of the US made quick work of the Australian Jacob Malkoun, beating him in just 19 seconds of the first round. 

“I’m pretty happy with it right now,” said Hawes. “It’s just a testament to hard work and God, believing in God and believing in myself and believing in my team. I’m surrounded by great guys at Sanford MMA and my boxing coach, so just a testament to those guys. 

Robert Whittaker of Australia (left) beat Jared Cannonier of the US via unanimous decision in a Middleweight bout.

Hawes refused to get over excited and is already looking forward to his next target.

“we’ve got the bigger picture, which is to be a world champion and that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “I know since a lot of people watch my footage, they’re afraid of my right hand, I finish a lot of people with my right hand, and as soon as I saw him go backward I knew exactly what he was afraid of. 

“Fight Island has been amazing, I’m so blessed to be here,” Hawes added. “Thanks for the UFC putting it on, Dana White and all those guys. God willing, they did everything they had to do and now we’re here and it’s just amazing to be here.”

The American Lauren Murphy beat Liliya Shakirova of Georgia  in the women’s Flyweight bout via a second-round submission and laid the next step of career that now has a record of 14-4-0.

“I want a title shot next, I want a shot at the champion, whoever that may be,” Murphy said. “I wanted to hit her a little harder, but everybody in the UFC is good. We’re definitely going to take some things away that I can work on from this, which is perfect. I still got my first submission, which was a big goal for us, big challenge, but to do it here in Abu Dhabi, it’s just really something special, I’m very, very happy. Hopefully, everyone will stop overlooking me. Almost my whole career, I’ve been the underdog, people have looked past me, and I think that’s going to stop now. I’ve really grown into myself as an athlete, I’m a veteran in this game. I’ve seen it all, I’ve done it all and I think people are not going to look past me anymore. 

The American Lauren Murphy (left) beat Liliya Shakirova of Georgia  in the women’s Flyweight bout via a second-round submission.

“It feels great,” she added. “My confidence is probably the number one thing that I’ve improved, my striking is the second thing that I’ve improved the most. Just going through the process and staying calm has been huge. I’ve gotten a ton of help, it takes a village to make a fighter.”

In the first fight on the main card Magomed Ankalaev defeated Ion Cutelaba of Moldova via a first round knockout in their Light Heavyweight fight.

“I feel great, now I can finally sleep well,” the Russian said. “It was a six-month camp, so I did a really, really good job in the six months and today I proved it. I wanted to catch him, I wanted to finish with a counter, and I finished with a counter. I think everybody in my division was watching this fight. I’m going after the top fighters, so I hope they’re waiting for me.”

“I’d love to fight a top five fighter, but it would be interesting, and I would prefer to fight Shogun Rua or Anthony Smith, but other than that, anyone in the top five,” Ankalaev said. “I’m just happy that I can sleep well right now. I’m going to probably rest about two, three weeks and hopefully get a top five opponent.”

The Russian Magomed Ankalaev (right) defeated Ion Cutelaba of Moldova via a first round knockout.

Just before the start of the main card, Tai Tuisava had beaten Stefan Struve via a first round TKO in their Heavyweight clash.

“It was awesome to get that feeling back,” he said. “Like I said before, it’s addictive, it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. It’s been awhile for me, so it’s good to be back, very good to be back. I felt pressure, but I trusted my team. I put in the work, I put my head down and my ass up this year, so I just credit that to my team. That was the plan, take it easy man and stop trying to get in there and get that money real quick. If I take my time, it comes, it comes. Credit to my team, big ups to my team.”

In the other Prelims, Casey Kenney beat Nathaniel Wood in their catchweight bout; in Welterweight fight Shavkat Rakhmonov overcame Alex Oliveira after 4:40 of round 1; and the Light heavyweight bout between Da-Un Jung and Sam Alvey was called a draw.

Meanwhile in the Early Prelims Miranda Maverick beat Liana Jojua in the first round of their Flyweight bout while Joe Alvarez also defeated Alexander Yakovlev in round one.

Yokohama send big guns Jeonbuk packing with 4-1 victory

Updated 23 min 1 sec ago

Yokohama send big guns Jeonbuk packing with 4-1 victory

  • It’s a fantastic achievement and we are proud of everyone involved — Marinos coach Ange Postecouglou

DOHA: Yokohama Marinos cruised into the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League for the first time in their history on Tuesday, hammering two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4-1 in their Group H clash.

Yokohama's Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan thundered in a shot from the edge of the box in the 17th minute to set the tone, before three goals in the second half sent the 2006 and 2016 winners Jeonbuk crashing out of the tournament.

"It's a great performance and a credit to the players, because it's the first time the club has got out of the group stage," said Yokohama coach Ange Postecouglou.

"We started really well and put pressure on them, scored a goal — a good goal from Bunmathan.

"We missed some chances in the first half which always keeps the opposition in the game, but in the second half we were a bit smarter, worked our counterattacks really well and scored three good goals.

"It's a fantastic achievement and we are proud of everyone involved."

Besides being the first team from eastern Asia to win the Champions League when it was launched in its current format in 2003, Jeonbuk are also eight-time K League winners, a South Korean record, which includes four consecutive titles starting in 2017.

But at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday, their only bright moment came in the 54th minute when Gustavo fired home from the penalty spot three minutes after Marcos Junior had put Yokohama 2-0 ahead.

Teruhito Nagakawa's 71st minute strike and an own goal by Song—  whose attempted headed clearance found his own net seven minutes from close — confirmed Jeonbuk's exit.

"The team gave what it was possible to do with the contingent that we have," lamented Jeonbuk coach Jose Morais.

"In the first half, strategically, we went in terms of containing the offensive game of Yokohama, which is a big game and a quality game."

"In the second half, the result as it was wasn't enough to take us forward, so we took more risks."

In Group G, Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings played out a 1-1 draw at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Lim Sang-hyub put Suwon ahead in the 53rd minute but Wei Shihao restored parity in the 72nd for Guangzhou with the help of an assist from Ai Kesen.

The result means the second qualifying spot from the group will be decided on Friday with the Bluewings needing at least a 2-0 victory to join Vissel Kobe of Japan in the round of 16.

Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro was once again at a loss to explain his team's showing.

"I am not happy because the performance of my team in the first half was not so good," said the former Italy international.

"We didn't control the game and we didn't even try to play football. Even in defence we did not play well. I don't want to find excuses."

Suwon's Park Kun-ha lamented the fact that his team didn't make the most of the chances they got.

"We got the first goal and then unfortunately conceded the equaliser. We had many chances at the end but we could not win."