UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov stepped into the octagon for a final time on Saturday, handily defeating Justin Gaethje via second-round submission. He then stunned the audience at the fight’s conclusion leaving his gloves in the cage and announcing his retirement from the sport with a perfect 29-0 record.
After the fight, many from around the sports world and beyond congratulated Nurmagomedov on his amazing career. While he will deservedly go down as one of the top fighters in UFC history, there will be one lingering question surrounding his final fight and, in particular, the pre-fight weigh-in. Was it legit? Did he actually make weight? Or, did the UFC literally tip the scales in his favor?
Khabib Nurmagomedov endures tough 2020
Khabib Nurmagomedov entered his fight against Justin Gaethje with a lot to lose. After more than a year off, the UFC Lightweight Champion entered the octagon with an unblemished 28-0 record.
A win after the long hiatus would solidify his legend. However, a loss would conclude a terrible year for the Russian. Nurmagomeov’s hiatus was the result of the pandemic, which limited travel out of his home country. More significantly, the 32-year-old fighter was touched by the virus on a more personal level when his father and trainer Abdulmanap died in July, a result of complications from the virus.
Many wondered just what kind of mindset Nurmagomedov would bring into the fight after such a lengthy layoff and having endured such a tragedy that affected both his personal and professional life.
Did UFC tip scales in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s favor?
On Friday, the first official order of business for the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Justin Gaethje fight took place at the weigh-ins. The champ didn’t look comfortable from the start. He appeared frustrated as he called for the towel to cover him, allowing him to remove any excess weight in his clothing.
With his pants removed, Nurmagomedov gingerly stepped up onto the scale, his hands clutching the arms of the two men on either side holding the towel. When the fighter released the men’s arms, the inspector opened the scale, which immediately floated upward. Inexplicably, as the scale continued its upward trajectory, the inspector nodded Nurmagomedov had made weight and reset the scale. It never bounced and never stabilized in the center.
The entire process took less than three seconds. Interestingly, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s reaction following the inspector’s approval was telling as well when he covered his face with both hands in an expression of relief.
For context, when Justin Gaethje stepped onto the scale, the same inspector waited for the scale to rise, fall, and then stabilize in the center before resetting.
Even Nurmagomedov’s coach surprised by weigh-in speed
After the weigh-in, there were plenty of questions on social media about Khabib Nurmagomedov’s weight. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Dolce, who helped Ronda Rousey and Thiago Alves manage their weight-cutting in the past, said it was very suspicious.
“When Khabib stepped on the scale, the inspector, whether through sheer incompetence or intentionality made a massive mistake that could be worth tens of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, in my expert opinion, I do not believe Khabib would have made the 155-pound weight class limit on this attempt.”
Nurmagomedov’s longtime coach Javier Mendez, admitted the fighter weighed 161 pounds the day before, but was confident after he received a positive report on the weight-cutting session on Friday morning. Then, he started receiving calls. Mendez said even he was surprised by the short time his fighter spent on the scale.
“There’s no way something went wrong. And then I watched the weigh-in, and the guys that were doing the scale thing, man, those guys were Speedy Gonzales. What the hell were they doing? That was so damn quick the way they did that. I would think something’s up myself, personally,” Mendez said. He added while “it did look suspicious,” that’s on the officials, not his fighter.
In the end, Khabib Nurmagomedov made weight, and then made quick work of Gaethje. Years from now, no one will remember the weigh-in controversy. Instead, they’ll remember Nurmagomedov’s final dominant performance and how he forever etched his UFC legacy as one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen.