Khabib Nurmagomedov’s UFC career has been dogged by a series of narratives. Can he stay healthy? Can he make weight? Can he be beaten? But one of the more surprising lately has been, how long will he keep fighting?
The 29-year old Dagestani phenom is still very much in his athletic prime, and although he has an MMA career that stretches back nearly a decade, he’s shown no signs of slowing down. But, just last year, his father told reporters that he didn’t see his son fighting past the age of 30.
It was a statement that Nurmagomedov quickly shot down, in an interview on the MMA Hour, telling fans, “...how I retire if I have to fight for the title? Now, I have very big name. And now, a lot of big fights are coming. How I retire?”
The “big fights” have arrived. But, this time it’s Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, who seems to be suggesting that the talented lightweight won’t be hanging around in the UFC for too much longer (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“We’re gonna beat Tony. We’re gonna stop Tony in three rounds. Khabib’s probably gonna retire undefeated because he’s gonna beat Conor, he’s gonna beat Tony, and he’s probably gonna say ‘Bye-bye,’” Abdelaziz told TMZ Sports in a recent interview.
The catch (beyond the obvious one of trying to plan a fighter’s retirement) is that it sounds pretty uncertain as to just how far apart those fights with Ferguson and McGregor might be, if they ever happen at all.
“Khabib said he’s gonna make the motherf**ker wait,” said Abdelaziz. “That’s what he told me, word for word. ‘When I beat Tony, Conor’s got to get in line or he can go fight Nate Diaz or somebody and make some money.’ [Khabib] said he’s gonna make the division right. At the end of the day, he said Conor’s gonna have to beg.
“On April 7, El Cucuy’s gonna get an ass-whooping and maybe Conor, maybe we’ll give him a crack. You see all his b**ch-ass coaches saying ‘Oh, Conor will knock out Khabib in the first round.’ Motherf**ker, you should have fought Khabib when you were supposed to fight him, when you said you wanted to fight him in Russia!”
Even if Nurmagomedov does beat Tony Ferguson, and even if Conor McGregor does get stripped of the lightweight belt (as seems likely), there’s still no guarantee that McGregor fights Nurmagomedov. The UFC’s biggest PPV star has made it clear over the years that he’s looking for the biggest selling fights possible. If Nurmagomedov can establish himself as a draw, McGregor would likely come calling. If he can’t? That may be a fight McGregor is happy to avoid.