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Daniel Cormier: Khabib refused to hurt Justin Gaethje unnecessarily in front of his parents at UFC 254

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UFC 254: Khabib v Gaethje Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje this past weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi via submission (triangle choke) to once again become the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion.

And while “The Eagle” once again made it look effortless, perhaps what is more impressive is the off-the-charts level of concentration he had during the title bout. Because according to his long-time training partner and good friend, Daniel Cormier, Nurmagomedov made sure he didn’t hurt Gaethje too bad.

The former UFC “champ-champ” relayed a conversation he had with “The Eagle” post-fight, claiming Khabib was very aware that “Highlight” stated on numerous occasions that he wouldn’t tap. And that’s the reason he opted to finish him with a triangle choke instead of an armbar, which has the tendency to cause more damage.

“There were a number of little things that played into the Justin Gaethje submission,” Cormier told Ariel Helwani. “He told me when he was watching the interviews over the course of the week, he saw that Justin said he would never tap. And when he was going to the submission — it’s his dad’s favorite submission — get into mount, going into the armbar and go into triangle.

“So when he got there, he was going to do the armbar, but he had heard Justin all week saying he would never tap, so he didn’t want to hurt him in front of his parents, so he went to the triangle — I promise,” added Cormier, who says Khabib’s decision and subsequent admission as to why he did that has more to do with caring about Gaethje than bragging.

“He goes, ‘I didn’t want to hurt him in front of his parents, so I said I’m going to go and put him in a triangle. And if he goes to sleep, he goes to sleep, you wake up, you’re fine.’ This is exactly what he told me. That’s crazy, right? He did not want to hurt Justin in front of his parents.

“To be comfortable enough to think about this in the moment, like, that’s crazy,” he continued. “He didn’t want to break his arm. Because if Justin’s not going to tap, you have to break it. And he did not want to do that to Justin in front of his mom and dad. He said, ‘if I put him to sleep, he will wake up and everything will be okay.’”

Afterward, Nurmagomedov announced that he would retire from mixed martial arts (MMA) after he promised his mother that he would not continue his career without his father — who passed away earlier this year — by his side.