Despite Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement announcement at UFC 254, Dana White still believes the lightweight champ will return to action.
Unlike Henry Cejudo’s decision to retire earlier in the year, Khabib’s belt remains in his possession. The UFC president told media following Tuesday’s Dana White’s Contender Series finale that he was unaware of Nurmagomedov’s recent USADA test, but otherwise sees the dominant Dagestani coming back for the tidy, even-numbered mark of 30-0.
“I didn’t know [the USADA test] happened,” White said (via MMA Fighting). “I told you guys that I think he’s gonna go to [30-0]. If he’s still testing, why the hell would you want to test if you’re not gonna fight?
“He hasn’t committed, but I feel like he’s gonna. I’m not really pushing him. We talked about it and he just fought. Let him take some time, spend some time with his family, spend the holidays. There’s no rush.”
Nurmagomedov bested Justin Gaethje by second-round submission in October, extending his number of lightweight title defenses to a record-tying three. One of the most incredible facts about Khabib’s MMA career is that he has never had a rematch against anyone. In terms of new challenges at 155, realistic options would surely be limited to Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson. A Georges St-Pierre bout at a catchweight has been much discussed but there’s no reason to believe it’ll materialize soon.
So logically, one can conclude that there won’t be the vacant belt on the line for Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier to contest if/when they meet at UFC 257 in January.
“No, [it won’t be for the title],” White said. “Khabib’s gonna fight (again). I believe he’s gonna fight. It’s not for the title.”