UFC 254 news: What happens to the lightweight title now Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired?

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Khabib Nurmagomedov cemented his position as arguably the greatest of all time after defeating Justin Gaethje on Saturday night.

The Eagle forced Gaethje to submit following a triangle choke in the second round in a brutal display on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

The champion sank to the floor in tears immediately after his victory, still reeling with emotion after losing his father earlier in the year due to complications from contracting COVID-19.

He then shocked the world by announcing his immediate retirement after the fight.

Following the emotional win, the 29-0 superstar said: “Today, I want to say this is my last fight.

“When UFC called me about Justin, I spoke with my mother and I said I wouldn't fight without father.

“And if I give my word, then I must follow it. UFC must make me No1 pound for pound fighter in the world because I deserve it.

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“I want to say thank you to Lorenzo and Dana.

“All this UFC team, everybody, they made a great show.

“Thank you to Justin, thank you brother. I know how you take care of your people.

"One day something will happen for you, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

“Today is my last fight here in the UFC."

With the sport reeling in shock from his retirement, attention is now turning to who will replace him as the lightweight king.

Justin Gaethje

After a stunning knockout win against Tony Ferguson earlier in the year for the interim UFC lightweight championship, Gaethje propelled himself as one of the leading contenders in the division.

A megafight with the undisputed king Khabib was announced for October 24, but he was on the receiving end of a second-round submission defeat.

However, with Khabib announcing his retirement, a potential rematch with Tony Ferguson could materialise or a fight with former champion Conor McGregor.

Conor McGregor

McGregor’s frequent announcements of retiring from the sport means it’s hard to judge where his career is currently. Undoubtedly the biggest star in UFC history, he helped really put the sport on the map before his mega crossover fight with boxing star Floyd Mayweather back in 2017. 

Since losing to Mayweather in the boxing ring, his career has been fraught with controversy, for incidents in and out of the Octagon. McGregor lost to Khabib back in 2018 at UFC 229 before a mass brawl took place between his team and Khabib’s team.

His most recent fight saw him beat Donald Cerrone at welterweight back in January. He retired again back in June this year.

Rumours of a rematch with Dustin Poirier have been gathering pace over the past few weeks and the two may meet at UFC 257 on January 23.

Tony Ferguson

Ferguson has long been one of the divisions most exciting fighters. Before his fight with Justin Gaethje earlier this year, he was on a 12-fight winning streak. He fought Gaethje in May of this year and suffered a knockout defeat despite being arguably the pre-fight favourite.

Previously he was due to fight Khabib five times, but each fight was called off due to injuries and then later complications with travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Now, unfortunately it looks like the fight with Khabib will never happen, so attention turns to either a rematch with Gaethje or one of the other leading contenders in the division.

Dustin Poirier

Poirier, like Conor McGregor, has come up through the ranks in UFC, firstly fighting as a featherweight before moving up to the lightweight division. He became UFC interim lightweight champion when he beat Max Holloway.

He then stepped up to fight Khabib in a unification bout in September 2019, but he became another one of Khabib’s victims, losing by submission in the third round.

He also fought Conor McGregor earlier in his career, losing at UFC 178. A rematch is rumoured for early next year. He also fought and beat Justin Gaethje back in 2014, which could be another contender for a rematch within the division.

Michael Chandler

Chandler has recently signed with UFC after a successful career in rival championship Bellator. He was signed in September by UFC supremo Dana White and was on standby if Gaethje or Khabib had pulled out of last Saturday’s clash.

He is a three-time Bellator lightweight world champion, and now that he has signed with UFC, is determined to make a mark in the rival division very quickly.

He has proposed the idea of a tournament for the lightweight title, with Poirier, Ferguson, McGregor and Gaethje.

A more likely outcome is a fight with Tony Ferguson in the early part of next year.

Lightweight Division In Good Hands

Despite the shock and disappointment of Khabib’s retirement, the sport and especially the lightweight division is in great shape going into 2021.

If some of the matches above can be made for early next year, fans are going to be in for a treat and hopefully some fans will be in attendance to watch by that time.

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