All combat athletes have to call time on their careers at some stage, but 2020 has seen the UFC lose some of the biggest pay-per-view draws to ever grace MMA and the Octagon.
As great cage fighters retire, it makes room for others to step up and take their place in the spotlight. That is something Dana White needs in the lightweight division as two of the main attractions in that category won’t compete again.
Khabib Nurmagomedov unanimously takes the top spot in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings 🦅
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 28, 2020
All sports move on when a big name hangs it up, and so must the UFC. Here we take a look back and celebrate three MMA superstars that retired in 2020.
“The Notorious” has dabbled outside the octagon with his famous crossover boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2017 but remains best known for his UFC exploits. Conor McGregor held both the featherweight and lightweight titles in the promotion, then made further history in his latest fight before announcing his retirement again.
In stopping Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in January, the Irishman became the first fighter in that company to record knockout victories at featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight. McGregor’s career was controversial, to say the least, but the drama in and around some of the fights only adds to his legacy as one of the best.
His latest retirement can be taken with a pinch of salt, but legendary feuds with Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov brought plenty of box office buys proving how popular he helped to make the promotion. Always good value entertainment-wise, McGregor will be missed by MMA in general and has a career record of 22-4 with each defeat coming via submission.
If there’s a sense that the lightweight division has been decimated this year, then it’s because Khabib Nurmagomedov has called time on his career too. Unbeaten in 29 professional cage fights, the Dagestan native promised his mother that he would not compete again following the death of his father and mentor.
Ever impressive and deadly inside the octagon, there is still a sense of what might have been for “The Eagle”. It seemed as though heaven and earth were against Khabib fighting Tony Ferguson, with a prospective bout between the duo nixed so many times that UFC promoter White would’ve been tearing his hair out if he had any. After making both McGregor and another lightweight division mainstay in Dustin Poirier submit, the Russian was dangerous to underestimate even after the loss of his father.
His price to win with oddsmakers reflected that. There was some logic to the argument that an emotional occasion may have made interim champ Justin Gaethje the value bet in the winner market. That is certainly what certain gambling experts thought with their picks. MMA betting tips are available for those who need guidance from the oddsmakers, especially with big event fights. Services such as this provide free tips and understand the betting market for those wanting to jump in. The site even has a resident MMA expert to help you with the difficult calls. You might have found yourself questioning whether Khabib would fight so fiercely in this bout.
He justified his status as the bookies’ favorite, however, and extended the undefeated streak. That technical submission success at UFC 254 in October was a fitting way for Khabib to bow out on top.
The lightweight division has a different landscape to it without both him and old rival McGregor, but the likes of Ferguson, Gaethje, and Poirier leave the UFC rankings with an open feel. Those three will be very much in the title picture moving forward, if and when Khabib vacates the title.
After an MMA career that spanned 11 years, former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier retired after completing a trilogy of bouts with Stipe Miocic. Meeting the same fighter three times is a rare enough thing in combat sports, and the fact he lost two of the encounters may tarnish the legacy of “DC” just a little.
His rivalry with Jon Jones when competing at light heavyweight always had the caveat of his opponent’s failed drug test. Yet Cormier went on to follow McGregor and become a two-weight champion after capturing the heavyweight title from Miocic at UFC 226 in 2018.
When the two met again the following year, however, DC went down in the fourth round. Miocic confirmed that form with a unanimous decision wins at UFC 252 in August but – win, lose or draw – Cormier was probably calling time on his career aged 41 anyway. He finished with an MMA record of 22-3 (1).
As with Khabib and Ferguson, money was left on the table as we never got to see Cormier compete against pro wrestling crossover sensation Brock Lesnar inside the octagon. That fight would have certainly drawn at the box office, especially as WWE’s “Beast Incarnate” was a former UFC heavyweight champion in his own right.