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The retired Russian fighter, who defended his lightweight crown in the main event last year, was praised by many for the way he finished his bout at UFC 254.
Instead of breaking the American's arm with his father's favourite submission, he switched to a triangle choke because he didn't want to hurt Gaethje in front of his parents.
Khabib Nurmagomedov put Justin Gaethje to sleep with his triangle choke. :flushed:
(:movie_camera:: @espnmma) pic.twitter.com/5b9BxYyhsj
- theScore (@theScore) October 24, 2020
In a press conference ahead of the upcoming Eagle FC 37 tournament, the 32-year-old spoke about his hardest opponents while giving us an insight into his mindset during those fights.
"I can point out two of them - Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson," Khabib told RT Sport.
"When I trapped [Johnson's] hand and went for the kimura... I could've broken his arm. I was executing the move very carefully because if you break an arm that way it will never be the same.
"So I was very careful, rolling it very carefully, and just asked for him to give it up.
"As for Justin... First I went for his arm.
"And only then I moved to the triangle choke... I realised, he would not give up and I didn't want to cripple his hand, so I went for the triangle choke.
"His parents were there in attendance, his father, his mother... in the front row.
"Footage doesn't show it, but when I entered the cage I could see them sitting there and looking at me.
"So those two guys I didn't want to hurt too bad."
We already knew about Khabib's intentions at UFC 254, after his former teammate Daniel Cormier spoke about the Russian's pre-fight thought process.
"He [Khabib] told me when he was watching interviews over the course of the week, he saw that Justin said he would never tap.
"So when he was going to the submission, he said it was his dad's favourite submission, get into the mount position, go into the armbar and then the triangle.
"When he got there, he was going to do the armbar but had heard Justin all week say that he wouldn't tap and he didn't want to hurt him in front of his parents.
"So he went for the triangle and kind of put him to sleep."
This is incredible. Khabib told DC he changed his mind and opted for the triangle choke instead of pursuing the arm bar because he didn't want to hurt Justin Gaethje in front of his parents. This was also his father's favourite submission. pic.twitter.com/jQM6v9B4To
- Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) October 26, 2020
In the above clip, host Ariel Helwani is taken aback by Cormier's revelation. "I promise you, he actually told me that," DC continued.
"He goes I didn't wanna hurt him in front of his parents so I said if I put him in the triangle and if he goes to sleep, he'll go to sleep get up and be fine.
"That's exactly what he told me, crazy right?
"He didn't wanna break his arm because if Justin isn't gonna tap, you've got to break it and he didn't want to do that in front of his mom and dad."
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