JUSTIN GAETHJE was ahead after the first round before tapping out against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov retained his lightweight crown in the UFC 254 headliner on Fight Island, after Gaethje submitted to a triangle choke in the second.
But two out of the three judges had Gaethje WINNING going into the second round.
That is despite Nurmagomedov landing more strikes and securing a takedown in the first five minutes.
One judge gave the Russian the nod, but the other two awarded it to Gaethje.
It mattered little, as Nurmagomedov took the fight to the floor in the second before choking Gaethje out.
An emotional Khabib was left in tears after fight, which was the first since the death of his father from Covid-19 in July.
Nurmagomedov then announced retirement, after he and Gaethje both embraced on the UFC canvas.
Gaethje said: "I haven't had a chance to tell you, but I'm so sorry for your loss but you've just made your father very proud."
After the defeat, the 31-year-old American vowed to bounce back and go back to the drawing board with the title set to be vacated.
Gaethje added: "Right now, it hurts, there's not a lot of people that can make me feel better.
"This is on me. I need to go home and you have to deal with this on your own especially because you step in their alone.
"I have a lot of comforting voices and I know that I made so many people proud just by stepping in there, by being here, by being ready.
"The preparation I put in is second to none and people appreciate that.
"People that I have come across, that's what they are fans of me for. It's for how hard work and how I carry myself.
"I'm just here to make people proud. Onto the next one."
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