Jeff Wagenheim of ESPN wrote:UFC 254: A dominant performance, a tearful goodbye and a legacy of greatness for Khabib Nurmagomedov
The tears flowed immediately. Khabib Nurmagomedov had just let go of the triangle choke he used to render Justin Gaethje unconscious, and all that was left for the UFC lightweight champion was a different release, one of a painfully personal nature. As medical staff moved in to attend to Gaethje against the cage, Nurmagomedov stepped to the center of the Octagon and dropped to his knees.
This would not simply be his usual postfight prayer. Nurmagomedov remained balled up on the canvas, his back heaving, hands covering his face. He was weeping.
Emotions that had been pent up for months spilled out of him. Nurmagomedov had shown none of it publicly in the leadup to this fight, wearing the stoic face for which he had become known during his undefeated mixed martial arts career. But there was no need for that anymore. His father and primary coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died in July from a heart condition complicated by COVID-19, and Khabib was finally allowing himself the opportunity to mourn publicly. There would be no more fighting for Nurmagomedov after Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
That became clear even before his UFC 254 main event victory was announced. As the official result was being read by Bruce Buffer -- a technical submission by triangle choke at 1 minute, 34 seconds of Round 2 -- and UFC president Dana White waited to wrap the shiny title belt around his champion once more, Nurmagomedov was already trying to peel away the red tape that secured his fighting gloves.
Those who regularly watch combat sports knew what was coming, and what it meant. When a fighter takes off his or her gloves and lays them at the center of the cage, that symbolizes the end of a career.
Nurmagomedov, speaking softly as his coaches and cornermen stood transfixed behind him, confirmed that he was walking away from a 29-0 career that will be remembered as the most dominant run in MMA history. The 32-year-old from Dagestan spoke of his late father. He spoke of his mother, and a promise he made to her.
"Today, I want to say this was my last fight," Nurmagomedov said. "No way I'm going to come here without my father. After what happened with my father, when the UFC called me about Justin, I talked with my mother, three days, she don't want I go fight without father. But I promised her this is going to be my last fight. And if I give my word, I have to follow it."