KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV will go down as the best lightweight to ever do it – but the title of the greatest of all time is one that will elude him.
Nurmagomedov's retirement from mixed martial arts – which he announced last October at UFC 254 – was made official on Friday morning following the Russian's latest meeting with president Dana White.
After months of trying to lure the 32-year-old back to the cage, White accepted his honourable decision to no longer compete without his late father by his side.
As is the case whenever a former champion hangs up their gloves, Nurmagomedov's place among the greats of the sport has become the topic of fierce debate.
Some have declared Russia's first UFC champion the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, while others have crowned him the best 155-pounder in the history of the sport.
The latter title, which some will no doubt argue belongs to Frankie Edgar, Eddie Alvarez or BJ Penn, is undeniable.
The former, however, is one the imperious and marauding Nurmagomedov cannot lay claim to.
Now, you may ask, 'How can the only undefeated champion in UFC history not be the GOAT?'
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The answer to that question is simple: his number of title defences.
There's no denying Nurmagomedov's ability to avoid defeat in 29 professional mixed martial arts fights is beyond astounding.
To put it simply, it's downright incredible.
And I, for one, believe we'll never see another MMA fighter call time on their career with a perfect record.
But when stacking up his resume against the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, it falls short.
Through no fault of his own, the imperious Nurmagomedov brought the curtain down on his career with three title defences to his name.
And they were clinical, to say the least.
Fourth, third and second-round submission wins over former champions Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje capped off an incredible run for The Eagle.
But as impressive as his 30-month reign as lightweight king was, it doesn't compare to the runs St-Pierre, Jones, Silva and Demetrious Johnson went on.
Recent Hall-of-Fame inductee St-Pierre defended his welterweight crown nine times before moving up and claiming middleweight gold in November 2017.
And amidst all his troubles outside of the cage, Jones – who is gearing up for his long-awaited move up to heavyweight – defended the 205lb throne a whopping 11 times before vacating it last August.
Future Hall-of-Famers Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson, both of whom are no longer with the promotion, also racked up 10 and 11 defences of the middleweight and men's flyweight titles respectively.
Prolonged title reigns such as the aforementioned four cannot be excluded when debating the greatest of all time. It's just the way it is.
Injuries early in his UFC career, sadly, prevented Nurmagomedov from claiming the lightweight throne earlier than April 2018.
And had it not been for his knee problems, which sidelined him for two years, he could very well have gone on to rack up double-digit defences and move up in weight.
Alas, that's the way the cookie crumbled. But it's not a bad way for the pieces to have fallen.
Nurmagomedov's retires with wins over four former world champions and a slew of personal accolades to boot.
His reign of terror will be spoken about for years to come and will be the benchmark for all aspiring lightweight champions.
But as dominant, entertaining and violence-filled as it was, it falls short when stacked up against champions of years gone by.
That, however, won't bother the simple man from the mountains of Dagestan, whose sole goal was to win the belt and make his late father proud.
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