When the two fighters spoke at their pre-fight press conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Gaethje laid out his plan of attack.
But perhaps more important than his reputation as a great fighter and champion is the legacy Nurmagomedov leaves.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, who appeared in his first fight following the death of his father Abdulmanap in July from complications caused by COVID-19, paid an emotional tribute urging his opponent Justin Gaethje to stay close to his parents.
Nurmagomedov, 32, walks away from the lightweight title at the peak of his powers and with an unblemished 29-0 record.
In 2019, Nurmagomedov again defended his belt by defeating Dustin Poirier by submission. He lost his father earlier this year.
On official scorecards, Justin Gaethje won the first round of the fight.
Gaethje had a few opportunities to do some damage to Nurmagomedov.
"I know he was in a bad spot, but whether he was or not, he did what he needed to do", Gaethje said. Cannonier zeroed in on the New Zealand-born Aussie's legs with repeated kicks-in fact, they accounted for almost half of the significant strikes he landed-and made a concerted effort to weaken his base. "That's where we're gonna start and we'll go from there".
UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is retiring.
"We're all lucky that we got to see him fight tonight", White said. Nurmagomedov dominated the bout from the first bell. Flyweight Lauren Murphy also bolstered her case for a title shot with a second-round stoppage of Liliya Shakirova by rear naked choke for her fourth straight victory. So much for that strategy. No way am I going to come here without my father. "That's the chaos. They wish ill on you-they don't necessarily want you to die or anything-but that hostility, I thrive in".