Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Khabib Nurmagomedov, while fighting with a broken foot, submitted Justin Gaethje via triangle choke during the second round in the main event of UFC 254 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It was Nurmagomedov's first bout since his father and head coach, Abdulmanap, died in July from COVID-19 complications. After the fight, an emotional Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
The 32-year-old Nurmagomedov said his mother didn't want him to continue competing without his father. He told her his fight against Gaethje would be his final.
"I want to say this was my last fight," Nurmagomedov said. "... I promised her this was going to be my last fight. If I give my word, I have to follow this. ... It was my father's dream."
Nurmagomedov put the final touches on his MMA career as he took Gaethje down and locked in the triangle choke to make him go unconscious at one minute, 34 seconds of the second round. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Nurmagomedov's submission finish was only the third ever in UFC title history.
Nurmagomedov's win unified the UFC lightweight title. Nurmagomedov entered as the UFC lightweight champion, and Gaethje was the interim titleholder.
"I know he made his father so proud," Gaethje said.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) went into the fight undefeated. The victory ties him with B.J. Penn and Benson Henderson for the most title defenses in UFC lightweight history (three).
Nurmagomedov, a native of Dagestan in Russia, also improved his record to 13-0 in the UFC, becoming only the second fighter after Anderson Silva to begin a UFC career with 13 consecutive wins.
"What this guy has been through, we're all lucky that we got to see him fight [Saturday]," UFC president Dana White said. "... Apparently, he was in the hospital and he broke his foot three weeks ago. So he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that's broken. That's what his corner told me.
"He's the toughest human being on the planet. He's the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world."
Gaethje (22-3) was on a four-fight winning streak going into the bout against Nurmagomedov. He beat Tony Ferguson to win the UFC interim lightweight belt at UFC 249 in May.
The fight between Gaethje and Nurmagomedov took place without fans at the Flash Forum on Yas Island, which the UFC has dubbed "Fight Island."