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.

European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

Updated 27 November 2020

European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

  • The February tourney looks set to be one of the strongest events on European Tour schedule

JEDDAH: European Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood join defending champion Graeme McDowell in looking to get their campaign to qualify for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team off to the strongest possible start at the Saudi International.

The tournament, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, will take place  Feb. 4 -7 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

With world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau confirmed for the event, along with reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and US stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, the strength of the field means huge ranking points will be on offer for Europe’s leading golfers as they look to get their 2021 qualifying efforts off to a fast start and secure a coveted place on the 2021 European Ryder Cup team.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful Ladies European Tour events this month as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Fleetwood, a six-time winner on the European Tour and standout player in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Paris in 2018, is making his debut this year in the Saudi International. He said: “From all I’ve heard from the lads who played there the last couple of years, the Saudi International has established itself as one of the leading events on the European Tour both in terms of set up and facilities as well as quality of the field, which is really impressive this year.”

Poulter, who played for the first time in the 2020 edition, said: “I really enjoyed the tournament at the beginning of this year and am psyched to be returning next February. The course sets up for my game rather nicely so I was pretty frustrated to only finish in the top 20 and will certainly be aiming to finish rather higher up the leaderboard this year!

“It’s a fantastic championship course with some amazing vistas and I also really like the fact we get to play a part in introducing golf to a whole new audience in a new region. With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive.

“It’s been a really weird year with the pandemic so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits,” he added.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “This announcement marks yet another amazing group of golf stars joining our 2021 field and the excitement of all the players to kick off afresh in 2021, in Saudi Arabia, is heartening to hear.

“The lineup for the tournament is looking strong and with more players still to be announced in the coming weeks — and on the back of two excellent Ladies European Tour events earlier this month — we are very much looking forward to the third edition of our tournament. We believe it will be the strongest installment to date and will serve as a fabulous illustration that Saudi Arabia is open for business.”