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Javier Mendez says he was shocked by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement announcement

Following another dominant victory and another defense of his UFC lightweight title in the main event of UFC 254 on Saturday, Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the masses by announcing his retirement from the sport of mixed martial arts at just 32 years old.

His second-round submission win over interim champion Justin Gaethje improved Nurmagomedov’s perfect record to 29-0, although he’s previously discussed the fact that he and his father had a goal of reaching 30-0 before he retired.

Things changed, however, when his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who also happened to be his head coach, passed away in July. The loss has clearly taken a toll on “The Eagle” and he said in his post-fight interview on Saturday that he had promised his mother that he would no longer fight without his father in his corner.

While his reasoning is obviously understandable, it didn’t make the announcement any less shocking. Even Javier Mendez, the head coach of the American Kickboxing and one of Nurmagomedov’s longtime coaches, for example, didn’t see it coming.

“I learned about it when he was giving the speech,” Mendez said in a recent interview with Submission Radio. “My jaw dropped. I was like, what? I mean, he played the best poker face on the planet. All of this was a total shock to me.”

And while Mendez would’ve liked to see “The Eagle” hit the 30-0 mark before hanging up his gloves for good, he seems to respect the decision that was made, noting that “family means more” to Nurmagomedov than anything else.

“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.”

If Saturday truly marked the end of Nurmagomedov’s fighting career, he’ll certainly go down as one of the best competitors the sport has ever seen given the dominant performances he put on and the perfect record he compiled.

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Michael Henken
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.