MMA Ratings Podcast

October 27, 2020

UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov Leaves An Untouchable Legacy In MMA

By Raphael Garcia

Being called the “Greatest of All Time” is not something that fighters openly talk about pursing, but for some, building a vaunted legacy is the most important part of their careers. Khabib Nurmagomedov is one fighter who was working towards it. After his dominating performance at UFC 254 there are going to be a lot more conversations about where Nurmagomedov sits on the all-time greats list. Now, there is more evidence to support his name being at the top of it.

Nurmagomedov needed less than two rounds to dispatch Justin Gaethje in their main event bout. Gaethje had a good start to the battle, but the moment Nurmagomedov committed to keeping the fight on the ground, he drowned Gaethje, just like he did every other man he has stepped into the cage with.

That was not the biggest story of the evening, however. In the aftermath of the fight, Nurmagomedov took to the microphone to announce his retirement from competition. After the loss of his father a few months ago and his mother asking him to promise to never compete again, “The Eagle” is no longer an active mixed martial arts competitor. This is not like the retirement talks of other competitors. Nurmagomedov is a man who stands on the strength of his word, and MMA fans and media should not expect to ever see him fight again. That turns the question into where his legacy stands, and whether he can stake a claim to being the greatest fighter of all time.

At 29-0 Nurmagomedov reigned over the toughest division in mixed martial arts. His resume includes wins over the likes of former UFC Lightweight Champions in Rafael dos Anjos and Conor McGregor, as well as Interim LightWeight Champions Dustin Poirier and Gaethje. There are plenty of fighters that went on intensely respected runs during their respective careers, but the dominance that Nurmagomedov displayed during this time makes his career even more exemplary. Nurmagomedov has never been cut, knocked down, nor had to defend a serious submission attempt. No one else has ever displayed such a clear control over his or her opponents as Nurmagomedov has in eight years of competing in the Octagon

But there is another level of respect that comes within Nurmagomedov’s legacy. His presence and dominance opened the door for the UFC to become entrenched within the region of the world that he calls home. His UFC performances, along with his father’s influence on MMA in Dagestan, helped to develop and build interest in other fighters from that region. The UFC and other major promotions have looked to that area for new names to add to their roster, and viewers can see the effect on nearly every card in the sport. Plus, it's not far-fetched to suggest that without Nurmagomedov, "UFC Fight Island" may not have existed. Imagine the limits that would have placed on the UFC's ability to stage fights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurmagomedov’s legacy goes further than winning twenty-nine consecutive fights. He has opened and held the door for others looking to follow his path.

Over the coming days and weeks, Nurmagomedov will continue to be lauded for his MMA career. Those conversations will be important. But recency bias must not change the narrative as time passes. Not only did Nurmagomedov win titles, but he created a world where others can win titles a well. That is the true meaning of a legacy in the world of competitive sports.

UFC 254
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC Lightweight Championship): Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje via submission (triangle choke) at 1:34 of Round 2.

UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje (formerly UFC 255: Khabib vs. Gaethje) took place October 24, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 254 Analysis

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