He completed the victory by executing a triangle choke to put his American opponent “to sleep” and end the fight.
But prior to his bout with Gaethje, the Russian had only won four fights using the triangle choke. Longtime followers of the legendary UFC fighter may have been surprised to see him conclude his career with a finishing move he had only used four times before.
During his recent appearance on Mike Tyson‘s podcast, The Eagle revealed the reason for using the triangle choke to defeat Gaethje on that memorable night.
Speaking about the fight and the conclusion in particular, the lightweight champion at the time said: “I met his parents before the fight, I knew his parents [were] gonna be there.
“I know this guy [is] very tough and he never gives up.”
So when Khabib transitioned to the arm bar, he was worried that Gaethje would not tap out and that he would be forced to break his arm – something he did not want to do in front of his opponent’s parents.
“I understand maybe this guy no tap and I’m gonna break his arm in front of his parents.”
So Khabib moved from the arm bar and into the triangle choke.
“I transitioned to the triangle choke, even if you don’t tap, you sleep. This is much better.”
Khabib retired immediately after the fight. He had recently lost his father due to complications from COVID-19 and did not want to continue fighting without him. Fittingly, Khabib used his father’s favourite submission to end his last fight.
Speaking after UFC 254, Daniel Cormier, longtime friend and training partner of Khabib, revealed: “Going into the arm bar, going into the triangle, he said it was his father’s favourite submission.”
After the title fight, Khabib and Gaethje embraced, with the latter telling the former: “You just made your father really proud.”
Khabib concluded his career with 29 wins and zero defeats. He goes down as one of the greatest, and most well-respected fighters, the sport has ever seen.
A great champion, but an even better man.