Even before the Justin Gaethje fight at UFC 254 on Saturday, Khabib Nurmagomedov already had 30-0 in his crosshairs. With all that talk amidst the build-up, it naturally came as a surprise for everyone when “The Eagle” made his retirement announcement with one fight shy of his goal.
In the same manner, AKA head coach Javier Mendez felt blindsided from the sudden turn of events.
“I learned about it when he was giving the speech. My jaw dropped,” Mendez told Submission Radio in a recent conversation. “I was like, what? I mean, he played the best poker face on the planet. All of this was a total shock to me.”
30-0 was what the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov wanted for his son, with a possible super fight against Georges St-Pierre as the clincher. But as Khabib himself revealed in his retirement speech, it was his mother who wanted him to hang up the gloves. For Mendez, that’s something to be respected.
“I was going, oh man, Father’s plan, great but Mother’s plan works in the end,” he said. “As his mother’s wish was for him not fight without his Father, and that’s what he did. And, you know, respect. This sport is not a longevity sport, it’s come in, come out. And he’s coming out at the time that he feels is the right time for himself and his family.
“And obviously me myself, I would have liked him to go 30-0 like his father wished, but he loves his mother so much and his family, that he decided that no, it’s time,” Mendez continued. “And financially he’s set. So, he’s not a greedy man. And you guys know as well as I know, that if he hung out one more fight, it would have been a monster pay day. But obviously family means more to him than money in everything he does.”
Mendez confirmed that Khabib’s retirement is final, but as we’ve historically seen, such announcements don’t always hold water. What is certain, though, is that Khabib did follow through with his promise during his pre-champion days: “retire undefeated, undisputed UFC lightweight champ.”
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