With UFC 254 now in the history books, the news that Khabib Nurmagomedov extended his perfect MMA record 29-0 is not all that much of a surprise. However, his announcement after the most recent of his stunning victories was.
Because with “Khabib” becoming the undisputed Lightweight champion after a second-round victory over interim champion Justin Gaethje, the 32-year-old shocked the sporting world by announcing his immediate retirement.
With the Chechen fighter recently losing his father Abdulmanap due to COVID-19 complications, even a single appearance in the octagon was always going to be difficult and after many souls searching and discussion with his mother, Nurmagomedov decided that he would fight again.
But only once more and after disposing of Gaethje via a guillotine choke, he not only extended his unbeaten record but also his incredible and awe-inspiring winning streak in the UFC – with now 13 consecutive victories to his name.
Not only that, but he also became the unanimous No.1 ranked pound for pound fighter and with the Lightweight mountain now scaled once for all, there was always a sense of where the next motivation comes from.
If he wanted to try and round off his record to 30-0, there was always the potential to fight the Canadian MMA legend George St Pierre and although that sounds exciting on paper, this retirement announcement has certainly scuppered those plans.
Which is bad news for Dana White and the UFC, as they lose another genuine box office star and quite possibly, maybe the greatest fighter to ever step into the octagon in the past quarter-century or so.
Which also means with Nurmaogmedov calling time on his career and unlikely to ever go back on his decision, there is something of a power vacuum in the Lightweight division and one that could finally see Tony Ferguson get a shot at the gold.
Then again, one must spare a thought for Ferguson, because he was scheduled to face the newly retired champion on five separate occasions and due to a mixture of injury, illness and travel bans this scheduled fight never took place.
Which meant an interim title fight would be held between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, with the belief being that this would act as nothing more than a tune-up fight for the former and by clearing this hurdle, he would eventually get his hands on the fearsome Chechnyan.
However, the best-laid plans have a habit of changing and with the 31-year-old Gaethje coming out on top via a TKO, it meant that the Arizona born fighter had skipped to the front of the Lightweight championship queue.
While with the title now vacant and Dana White looking for his next money match, a sequel to this newly formed rivalry could be the most obvious choice and one that would give far dues to an unfortunate Ferguson.
Should this be the case, there will certainly be a flurry of betting activity and with sports fans looking to keep themselves entertained in this current climate.
Which obviously means if this fight were to go ahead, there will be all manner of available markets ready to take your hard-earned money and it will take a brave person to suggest who will come out on top at the end of “Ferguson vs Gaethje II”
However, that talk can be revived some other day, because for now, it is time to reflect in the glory of Khabib Nurmagomedov, as “The Eagle” has simply soared to the greatest heights that the sport of MMA has to offer.
Had life not taken such an unexpected turn just months ago, the talk would have been who and where next for this esteemed fighter and with his retirement, the UFC landscape will now become a slightly lesser place.
Thankfully though, his 13 successive wins in the UFC will long be etched in the memories of fight fans all over the world and although he will no longer be competing in the octagon, his efforts will not be forgotten anytime soon.
A humble man, a noble warrior, a Chechnyan icon. These are just several fitting accolades that can be bestowed in his direction and to be honest, he is worthy of just about every plaudit that he will receive over the next few days and weeks. Khabib, we salute you and enjoy your retirement.