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The UFC’s Greatest of All Time is Khabib Nurmagomedov
This weekend, I watched the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje bout with my son. It was the first time we have ever watched a UFC fight in real-time, and although he seemed to be more concerned with getting back to his virtual reality headset, he humored me for just over seven minutes.
Little does he know right now but by the time he grows up — and presumably develops the same heavy interest I did in mixed martial arts — the guy he watched win that fight will be one of the most celebrated legends in MMA history.
Will they call Khabib the G.O.A.T? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Or should I say, maybe SOME will, maybe some won’t? But something clicked for me on Saturday that changed how I look at the Mount Rushmore of MMA. Despite being a huge fan of Khabib’s pretty much from his early fights in the UFC, I was willing to admit, for the first time, that he is the best to ever do it.
Today, I’m going to explain why, by looking at his competition for that mantle.
What About Jon Jones?
Although he was among the first to congratulate Khabib on his victory over Gaethje, Jon Jones took to social media to argue his own case for G.O.A.T status.
And you have to give it to Jones. Not only was the American the most dominant light heavyweight in the history of the sport, but he has amassed one of the most impressive championship runs in history.
Jones has beaten most of the best fighters to ever grace his weight class. Including an elite, an all-time great in Daniel Cormier. He has fifteen title fight wins in the UFC, and was head and shoulders above everyone else at 205 for a lengthy period.
Unbeaten, providing you discount Matt Hamill’s “win” over Jones that was really a DQ for “Bones” on account of the use of 12-6 elbows, the Rochester, New York native is one of the true greats.
But, and this is a big but, Jones being popped for the use of steroids, his various run-ins with the law and the numerous scandals he has been involved in have tarnished his record. Not only that but he has earned only three stoppages in eight years, and has been involved in a couple of fights that really could have — and probably even should have, in some cases — gone the other way.
I have always been a huge fan of Jones, but he has not looked great in recent fights. Given the fact that he has been caught out using particular banned substances in the past, there is always going to be some suspicion regarding some of his earlier achievements.
You Can’t Ignore Anderson Silva?
In his pomp, Anderson Silva was one of the most exciting human beings on the planet.
As a fighter, he was phenomenal. Up until he was dethroned by Chris Weidman in 2013, it looked as though he had a genuine chance of retiring at the top of his game.
Now, the top of Silva’s game was eye height with Annapurna. A legendary title reign of 2,457 days is a UFC record that will probably never be beaten. His UFC record of 16 consecutive victories in that timeframe a longstanding testament to his dominance.
But Silva’s loss to Weidman signaled a downward spiral into a weird mediocrity when it came to winning fights. He has just one win on his record from his last eight fights, and that should have been a loss to Derek Brunson.
Silva, like Jones, was caught using banned substances. When you put this against his reluctance to retire from the game, thus sabotaging his legacy in favor of big paydays, his greatness slips down that massif.
GSP Has to Be the G.O.A.T?
Georges St-Pierre is probably the greatest example of what the consummate mixed martial artist should be.
Utterly dominant, hard-working, respectful, classy, and very f’ing talented? Georges had it in bundles. The king of the welterweight division, GSP was a two-time champion at 170-pounds and the holder of the longest championship run in UFC welterweight history at 2,204 days.
St-Pierre holds wins over some legendary fighters, by way of a style that was, for the most part, highly effective. Walking away from the sport in December 2013, he did so while on top of the game. Still, he didn’t beat Johny Hendricks in that last fight at 170, did he?
The Candian icon returned to the UFC in 2017, submitting Michael Bisping to win the middleweight strap. Now a two-division world champion, GSP then decided to hang up his gloves without defending his title.
Although he stands as arguably the greatest to ever do it, his loss to Matt Serra is a big smudge on his record. The Hendricks fight should have never gone his way, and there is a case to argue that he left when things got tough for him.
An icon, and one of my favorite fighters from any combat sport, was he better than Khabib?
Khabib is the Greatest of All Time
A record of 29-0 is something that any fighter could only dream of walking away with. For Khabib, it’s a testament to his dominance in this sport.
Last Saturday, I watched “The Eagle” closely in his cage walk. I could see the emotion in his eyes, and the desperation to get the monkey of heading into battle without his father for the first time off his back.
Despite the pressure of facing a guy like Justin Gaethje — an unbelievably talented striker with an NCAA Division I background that some had thought could help him slay the dragon — Nurmagomedov did what he has always done.
Yes, up until he joined the UFC, the Dagestani warrior’s record is full of fighters that aren’t exactly world-beaters. Was that his fault? Surely you can only fight what is in front of you, right? I mean, he won every fight.
But what about when it came to the uptick in opposition. Some had suggested that Nurmagomedov would struggle as soon as he fought better opposition. Of course, that never happened.
The 32-year-old retires with submission wins over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje from his last three fights. At one point, fans talked about how he could not leave the sport without fighting Tony Ferguson. But let’s be honest? Would you bet on Ferguson beating Khabib? I am confident that Khabib would beat the American, and that there is no lightweight on the planet that can touch him.
Unfortunately for us, we will probably never get to see the best of Khabib. And that’s a tragedy for fans.
Who Do You Think is the Greatest of All Time?
When it comes to labeling Khabib as the best to ever do it, I know that will attract a lot of criticism. But to those of you that don’t agree, here’s a question to ponder.
Imagine Jones, Silva, GSP, and Khabib as similar size, in their primes, and in the same weight class. Then try to envisage who would win a tournament between all four. It’s simple, sure, but try it.
The comments section is open. Let me know who the greatest UFC fighter of all time is and why.