Khabib Nurmagomedov showed incredible mercy in the heat of his fight with Justing Gaethje as he did not want to hurt the American in front of his parents, according to Daniel Cormier.
Gaethje had the UFC fly out his mother and father especially for the UFC 254 showdown on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi as it was the culmination of years of hard work they’d supported.
And Cormier, who is close friends and former team-mates with Khabib, says the Russian told him he would not inflict unnecessary pain in front of Carolina and John Ray Gaethje, believing he would be too stubborn to tap out.
Khabib Nurmagomedov had an armbar but decided he did not want to try and break it
Khabib told Daniel Cormier he wouldn’t hurt Gaethje in front of parents Carolina and John Ray
Earlier in the fight, having taken the No 1 contender down, Khabib was in position for an armbar.
He thought Gaethje may well allow him to break the arm before submitting so Khabib transitioned into a triangle choke.
He explained on ‘DC & Helwani’: ‘He [Khabib] told me when he was watching interviews over the course of the week, he saw that Justin said he would never tap.
‘So when he was going to the submission, he said it was his dad’s favourite submission, get into the mount position, go into the armbar and then the triangle.
‘When he got there, he was going to do the armbar but had heard Justin all week say that he wouldn’t tap and he didn’t want to hurt him in front of his parents.
Ultimately Gaethje tapped out anyway but the referee missed it and he went to sleep
‘So he went for the triangle and kind of put him to sleep.’
Cormier continued: ‘I promise you, he actually told me that.
‘He goes I didn’t wanna hurt him in front of his parents so I said if I put him in the triangle and if he goes to sleep, he’ll go to sleep get up and be fine.
‘That’s exactly what he told me, crazy right?
‘He didn’t wanna break his arm because if Justin isn’t gonna tap, you’ve got to break it and he didn’t want to do that in front of his mom and dad.’
Gaethje did in fact tap out in the end but the referee missed it and he was choked out unconscious.
If true as Daniel Cormier insists, it was a remarkable show of sportsmanship by Khabib
Khabib has always been a respectful fighter but if true, his thinking behind moving to a triangle rather than breaking Gaethje’s arm is a remarkable act of sportsmanship.
The Dagestani fighter announced his shock retirement from MMA after his win having conquered the division’s top contenders and moved to 29-0.
He promised his mother he would no longer fight on after this encounter without his late father Abdulmanap present. Abdulmanap died following complications after contracting coronavirus earlier this year.
Khabib banked £4.6m as a fight purse and will take home even more when it comes to bonuses and a share of the pay-per-view figures.