UFC president Dana White was extremely high on Khabib Nurmagomedov coming into his UFC 254 lightweight title fight against interim champ Justin Gaethje, saying a win would cement Khabib’s place as pound-for-pound #1. It would also, according to White, put Khabib into the conversation for G.O.A.T. status - Greatest of All Time.
Well, Khabib won. In dominating fashion, with a triangle choke submission in round two. And then he retired with a perfect 29-0 record. So the GOAT conversation can start now, and Dana White is leading the charge.
“What a night. Wow, man. He is the baddest motherf**ker on the planet,” White said at the UFC 254 post-fight press conference. “Let’s start with ... there’s like a feeling out process for two minutes, and then it’s on. Those two were going. The pressure that Khabib puts on you is unbelievable. Literally didn’t respect his punching power. Just walked right into everything, did what he wanted.”
“When he started to go for the armbar in the first round, I’m like ‘oh my god he’s going to try to pull off an armbar?’ Then the second round, he keeps the pressure on him. For that submission, I was like aw nah. He locks it up, gets it and chokes him out. Unbelievable. And he still hasn’t - he didn’t lose either round.”
Although two out of three judges disagreed with White’s assessment on who won round one, that doesn’t change White’s opinion.
“He is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” White said. “And you seriously have to start putting him up there at GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT.”
White made it clear who his GOAT is on social media soon after.
congrats @TeamKhabib you accomplished EVERYTHING you set out to do. You are the P4P best fighter in the world and you truly are the G.O.A.T of the sport. #29-0 pic.twitter.com/9eOjVaUgBu— danawhite (@danawhite) October 25, 2020
Another respected member of UFC organization also agreed: matchmaker Sean Shelby also has Khabib as his GOAT.
Unpredictability is a hallmark of MMA and this number is so improbable, so insane. Never gave up a touchdown. Pitched a perfect game every time. Never gave up pole position. Never a goal in his net. & his last was his best. Predictable as the sunrise.@TeamKhabib, obviously GOAT pic.twitter.com/G0FyAqcvMU— Sean Shelby (@seanshelby) October 25, 2020
Fellow GOAT contender Daniel Cormier also put Khabib at the top of his GOAT list ... which included an amusing omission:
Daniel Cormier not putting Jon Jones in his list is hella fuckn petty #UFC254 pic.twitter.com/F9cwT5mwaA— Steve (@SteveK_MMA) October 25, 2020
It’s this kind of disrespect that probably led to Jon Jones having a Twitter meltdown as everybody started to dismiss his nine year reign over the light heavyweight division.
We’re not gonna go too deep down the G.O.A.T. rabbit hole because it’s really just subjective debate fuel for fans to battle over. In my opinion Khabib made a genius decision walking away and letting his legions of fans fight that war for him rather than spend the next five years solidifying (or dropping) his case.
As for whether the retirement will stick? Dana White thinks it will, and he’s not interested in trying to change Khabib’s mind
“Listen, when guys want to fight, they want to fight,” White said. “If they don’t want to fight, they don’t want to fight. Let him heal, not physically but emotionally heal with what he’s going through from losing his father. We’re all lucky we got to see what he saw tonight.”