‘We’re lucky we got to see him fight tonight’: UFC supremo Dana White pays tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after career-ending win over Justin Gaethje… as it’s revealed fighter broke his foot and contracted MUMPS in build-up to bout
UFC president Dana White has heaped praise on Khabib Nurmagomedov after he announced his shock retirement following his UFC 254 win over Justin Gaethje.
The Russian defeated Gaethje early in the second round of their Saturday night fight but revealed that victory was his last in MMA.
White also claimed that Khabib broke his foot three weeks ago and nearly did not take part in the UFC 254 contest this weekend, while it has also been revealed the Russian contracted mumps in the fight build-up.
Dana White has paid tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after he retired from UFC on Saturday
Khabib defeated Justin Gaethje (right) in UFC 254 on Saturday night and then quit the sport
White told the media after Khabib’s final victory: ‘What this guy has been through, we’re all lucky that we got to see him play tonight. Apparently he was in the hospital and broke his foot three weeks ago.
‘He’s got two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me. He never told anybody and was walking around.
‘He is one of the toughest human beings on the planet. He’s the No 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and we seriously need to put him up there as a GOAT status.’
Khabib, who recently lost his father to Covid-19, was emotional when he announced his exit
It has been a difficult few months for Khabib, who lost his father at the start of July due to coronavirus.
‘Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father. It was first time, after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin,’ he said.
‘I talk with my mother three days, she don’t want that I go fight without 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.
‘I know only one thing I want from UFC, you guys have to be me on No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this.’
Khabib was emotional after his win, curling up into a ball and crying on the octagon floor
White claimed he believed something was wrong with the Russian fighter in the build-up to the fight, but was still surprised at his bombshell post-fight news.
Khabib’s coach confirmed after the fighter’s retirement that he had contracted mumps in his training programme which was described as the ‘worst camp’ ever.
He added: ‘I could tell. The way he acted at the weigh-ins (and) the way that he acted when he was walking out tonight.
‘He didn’t look like himself, he was breathing heavy and taking deep breaths, but wow.’
White was asked whether Khabib could make his way back to MMA later on in his life, in a move that would replicate Conor McGregor highly-anticipated return later this year.
White said he will not force Khabib into a MMA return and said the Russian has a broken foot
The UFC president said he will give Khabib the space he needs to mourn his father’s death and will not force him into a decision to return.
White continued: ‘If the guys want to fight, let them fight. If they don’t want to fight they don’t want to fight.
‘Let him take some time off and heal, not physically but emotionally, with what he’s going through from losing his father.’
Khabib ended his career with 29 wins and zero defeats after the victory over Gaethje (right)
The UFC lightweight champion extended his unblemished record to 29 wins, zero defeats with the victory over Gaethje at Saturday’s UFC 254.
UFC rival McGregor also paid respect to Khabib and his career following the shock news on Saturday night.
The Irishman tweeted: ‘Good performance @TeamKhabib,’ he wrote. ‘I will carry on. Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors.’