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‘I have to end my sports career’ - UFC’s Ismagulov says ‘health problems’ pushing him out of MMA

One of the UFC’s top ranked lightweights appears to be making a sudden exit from competition, following just the second loss of his MMA career.

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier v Strickland Weigh-in
Damir Ismagulov hits the scales ahead of his bout with Arman Tsarukyan in December of 2022.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Even coming off a loss to Arman Tsarukyan at UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland, Damir Ismagulov seemed like a man who could easily contend for a UFC title some day. The 31-year-old former M-1 lightweight champion had tasted defeat just twice in 26 fights, and had never been finished. With a well rounded technical game and one of lightweight’s best jabs to rely on, he looked primed to remain ‘in the mix’ at 155 lbs for years to come.

It’s something of a shock then that the Russian-born Kazakh fighter appears to have announced the end of his career in a post to his social media accounts on Sunday, January 1st.

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances and health problems, I have to end my sports career,” Ismagulov wrote on Instagram (h/t MMA Fighting). “Thanks to all those who were by my side, regardless of the result in the battles, who sincerely hurt and worried. It was an interesting journey, a moment to remember. Hugged everyone.”

Ismagulov went 5-1 over his four-year UFC stint, picking up notable victories over Joel Alvarez, Thiago Moises, and Guram Kutateladze on the way. During that stretch, his career was sidelined for 18 months between 2019-2021 due to a series of injuries. In an interview with the UFC—ahead of his return against Rafael Alves—however, Ismagulov claimed to be fully recovered and healthy.

No word yet on exactly what the circumstances of his recent health issues may be, but it’s an unfortunate conclusion to a terrific run at the highest levels of MMA.