Having mixed it with Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, The Eagle then called it a day after his next fight, which saw him knock off Gaethje on Fight Island, concluding a glittering career with a 29-0 record.
But the October 2020 meeting was memorable for the Russian, who maintains the American “hit like a truck”.
“This guy [Justin Gaethje] hit like a truck, you know,” Nurmagomedov told Mike Tyson on his Hotboxin’ podcast.
“Nobody hit me harder than Justin Gaethje. His kick, his punch, his left hook, right hook, right uppercut.
“I make him hit me, you know. When I go to the cage and I was sitting like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go, I’m going to bring him into the deep ocean.
”I’m going to make him tired in stand-up and I’m going to bring him on the ground and finish him.”
The praise is bound to provide Gaethje with a boost as he hunts down a shot at the lightweight world championship.
Charles Oliveira won the vacant belt upon Khabib’s retirement by defeating Michael Chandler.
And Gaethje has since knocked off Chandler too, edging a three-round war at UFC 268 and then demanding a shot against the winner of Oliveira vs Dustin Poirier.
“I don’t need to hear anything. I do not. I already know. I’m not going to – those are the things I can’t control, you know? I did what I had to do to control the situation,” Gaethje told MMA Junkie.
“Outside that, I have no more control now. It would be all on the fans, the journalists, the integrity. That has to be questioned.
“People respect us because it’s not boxing because the best fights happen. I have to fight the winner of Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier to justify the integrity of this sport, and I’m comfortable with that. I don’t need to do anything else.”