Having moved to 29-0 and retired with that perfect record in tact, UFC president Dana White put his cards on the table, writing: ‘You accomplished EVERYTHING you set out to do.
‘You are the P4P best fighter in the world and you truly are the G.O.A.T of the sport. #29-0.’
Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) retired undefeated after beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254
The Russian fighter submitted his challenger in the second round of their main event
White previously had Anderson Silva as his pick for the No 1 spot but admitted that if Khabib could beat Justin Gaethje, as he did in such fine style, then the Russian would take over.
But not everybody agrees with White, even if UFC’s P4P rankings now do. Jon Jones was quick to bash those dismissing his claims on social media afterwards while Georges St Pierre remains the choice for many fans.
Conor McGregor has influenced the sport like no other while Demetrious Johnson reigned supreme for years and Amanda Nunes also has a case to make.
Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the contenders for GOAT status.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0)
The undefeated record is a holy grail for MMA fighters. It is incredibly easy to slip up and lose at some point so to hang up the gloves with 29 professional victories in a row is a remarkable achievement.
Khabib also touched on the fact that in reality, there are no more top contenders for him to get motivated by.
Dustin Poirier, Gaethje and McGregor are the top three contenders to his throne and he’s beaten all three of them.
In Khabib’s favour for GOAT status is the dominant manner of his wins and the almost folkloric way his team-mates have spoken about him never even losing a round in training.
Khabib shocked the MMA world by announcing his retirement after the win over Gaethje
Nobody has been able to cope with the Russian’s wrestling and Gaethje was no different
Everybody knows what Khabib will do but nobody can stop it. The wrestling ability and understanding he has, combined with a gas tank that never runs out is on another level to anyone who has stepped into the octagon.
Much was made of Gaethje’s wrestling pedigree, he was the best defensive grappler to face Khabib in the UFC, but the Dagestani took him down with relative ease.
Poirier had him in trouble with a guillotine during their fight but few have ever managed to put Khabib in a dangerous spot.
Perhaps counting against him is the fact that his rise to the lightweight summit was populated by middle-of-the-road opponents and he has never challenged himself in another weight class.
Khabib won the vacant title against Al Iaquinta so the meat of his CV came against McGregor, Poirier and Gaethje. Is that enough to secure GOAT status? For many it is but others point to greater bodies of work over a longer period of time.
Dana White (right) believes Khabib is the pound-for-pound greatest and the No 1 fighter ever
Georges St Pierre (26-2-0)
Khabib has retired at 32, in his prime and the same age that GSP was when he decided to step away from the sport.
The Russian cited the media responsibilities, weight cutting and draining training as additional reasons for his exit, not too dissimilar to St-Pierre alluding to ‘burnout’.
Having dominated the welterweight division for so long, GSP took four years out before returning to beat Michael Bisping and claim the middleweight title in 2017.
He is interested in a dream megafight against Khabib but will not be pushing to make it happen as he respects the Russian’s wishes.
Georges St-Pierre (left) defeated Michael Bisping (right) after coming out of retirement
The Montreal native was one of the most well-rounded fighters ever seen in the UFC and strung together 10 successful title defences against tough opposition.
He beat B.J. Penn, Nick Diaz, Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck all in their prime and it could be argued those are tougher than the names Khabib has had to face.
That said, GSP has two blots on his copybook. A submission defeat by Hughes and shock KO defeat by Matt Serra.
If he did ever return to face Khabib then it would settle the GOAT debate for most fans once and for all.
GSP is regarded by many has the best fighter in MMA history given his overall body of work
Jon Jones (26-1-0)
The issue with doping is what downgrades Jones in the eyes of many.
In 2016 he was suspended for a year after testing positive for two banned substances, clomiphene, an anti-estrogenic substance, and letrozole.
The following year, Jones was stripped of his UFC light-heavyweight title after testing positive for the steroid Turinabol.
Many are able to overlook the shortcomings of Jones in his personal life in the GOAT debate but to be caught twice by USADA for using performance-enhancing drugs puts an asterisk next to his name.
Jon Jones has never truly been beaten and only has one disqualification defeat on his record
If it wasn’t for those failed tests, it would be difficult to argue against Jones being the best to ever do it.
He became the UFC’s youngest ever champion aged just 23, beat the who’s who of the light-heavyweight division and has looked untouchable in most fights.
Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and of course Daniel Cormier all suffered at his hands.
The one defeat came through disqualification for illegal elbows against Matt Hamill, so is hardly a legitimate loss.
He took exception to those calling Khabib the greatest last Saturday night, saying it was insulting to rank the wrestling sensation above him.
Jones is moving up in weight and still has years left at the top if he wants it enough. If he can usurp Stipe Miocic as heavyweight champion and continue winning while clean, his claim to GOAT status may become undeniable.
Jones was annoyed with so many fans calling Khabib the greatest after his win over Gaethje
Amanda Nunes (20-4-0)
Nunes is without doubt the greatest female MMA fighter in history.
The Brazilian dominated Miesha Tate to win the bantamweight title before facing Ronda Rousey.
Granted, Rousey had just been stunningly beaten by Holly Holm, but Nunes put on an even more ferocious beating, knocking her out in under a minute.
Amanda Nunes is undoubtedly the best female MMA fighter in history and a two-weight champ
She then went on to overcome the hugely talented Valentina Shevchenko for a second time before crushing Cris Cyborg, who hadn’t lost in a decade and was regarded as the most fearsome woman in the UFC.
Nunes then knocked out Holm and beat Germaine de Randemie. There is nobody left for her to fight and the Lioness deserves inclusion in this debate.
She has not lost in six years but the four defeats on her record hold her back from top spot, along with the fact that the number of top female fighters does not currently compare to the male side, although that is improving.
Nonetheless, a clean athlete, double champ and dominant wins over the best of her peers puts Nunes right up there.
The Brazilian has dealt with some of the best in the sport with ease and has huge power
Anderson Silva (34-10-1)
The man White believes Khabib has overtaken now.
Silva won an incredible 17 fights in succession in the UFC and 10 of those were middleweight title defences.
He combined elite level striking and jiu-jitsu with some of the most highlight-reel worthy finishes and showmanship in MMA history.
If you favour flair and entertainment as key parts of your pick for GOAT then Silva will rank highly.
Anderson Silva’s (right) run of six defeats in his last eight have tainted his impressive legacy
The list of top fighters he beat is arguably more impressive than Khabib, with wins over Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort and Demian Maia among them.
But the 45-year-old’s legacy continues to be tainted by recent history. He is retiring after his next fight with Uriah Hall but in truth, should probably have walked away some time ago.
He has lost six of his last eight on a dreadful run against fighters who he would have almost certainly beaten or had a much better chance against without so many miles on the clock.
Silva did fail a drugs test but USADA eventually ruled that the Brazilian pharmacy, who produced the tainted supplements, did not list the banned substances on the label and did not tell him the truth about cross-contamination.
The Brazilian brings a style and excitement to the octagon that few others are capable of
Conor McGregor (22-4-0)
How do we define greatness? McGregor’s place at the top of any GOAT list will have to heavily lean on his influence on the sport.
No fighter has ever done more to boost the profile of MMA and take it mainstream than McGregor.
McGregor changed the game from a marketing perspective and is without doubt the greatest salesman. He can promote himself and the UFC like no other.
His success has had a direct effect on the rise in pay other fighters receive and many give him due credit for lifting them up to another strata.
McGregor held the lightweight and featherweight titles after beating Eddie Alvarez in 2016
That isn’t to say he hasn’t had a spectacular career in the octagon either. He is the first simultaneous two-weight champion after claiming both the featherweight and lightweight titles.
The 13-second KO defeat of Jose Aldo was an iconic moment and his picture perfect win over Eddie Alvarez in 2016 also showcased the same devastating striking he became known for on his rise through the ranks.
McGregor suffered a couple of defeats before arriving in the UFC and the submission losses by Nate Diaz and Khabib set him back from a No 1 spot.
He can now push on and further his credentials with a long reign at the top if he manages to reclaim the lightweight belt and may even fancy a pop at welterweight to become the first three-weight champion in UFC history.
The outspoken Irishman (left) has done more for the sport’s profile than any fighter before him
Demetrious Johnson (30-3-1)
Back in 2018, GSP believed Johnson was the greatest.
‘The sport is not fair in some ways. Demetrious Johnson is probably the best ever. When I talk about confidence and skills, who is a better guy than this?’ he said on the Joe Rogan Experience.
Rogan himself added: ‘One of the things that sets him apart is not that he is running away from you and not getting hit, he’s running at you. He’s just a monster, a f****** monster. He’s doing something on a completely different level.’
Since then, he lost a split decision against Henry Cejudo and left the UFC to join ONE Championship in Asia, where he’s won his last three fights.
Demetrious Johnson left the UFC to join ONE Championship, but he still has had a great career
He holds the record for title defences in the UFC with 11 in succession in the flyweight division.
The fact that Johnson is a flyweight counts against him for some. They look at him stood next to a fighter like Jon Jones and it is clear if they were to compete Jones would demolish him as the physically much larger man.
But the GOAT debate should not have to take weight class into account. Quality of opponent is a far better measure and ‘Mighty Mouse’ fought and beat the best the UFC had to offer.
He failed in his attempt to step up, losing to Dominic Cruz at bantamweight and was seen by some to have ducked huge contests with TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt.
Perhaps Johnson is overlooked as a flyweight but his CV stacks up among the best.
As he is in a lighter weight class ‘Mighty Mouse’ is often overlooked in the GOAT debate