Last we heard from Dana White, the UFC president still sounded incredibly confident that UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement plans weren’t nearly as set in stone as they appeared to be. After defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 back in October, the ‘Eagle’ announced that his time in mixed martial arts was at an end.
“I talked with my mother for three days. She didn’t want me to go fight without my father,” Nurmagomedov said of his decision post-fight. “I promised her, ‘It’s going to be my last fight,’ and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.”
Still, White told reporters in early December that we would “find out how persuasive” the promoter can be. And that he’d bet on himself “every time,” in negotiations like this one. But, here we are a couple weeks later and, while White still plans to meet with Nurmagomedov in January, it sounds like Nurmagomedov is entering the new year with expectations of vacating his belt once and for all.
In a recent interview with MatchTV.ru, the longtime AKA talent talked about the potential of returning to the Octagon. And while he joked that maybe a fight with Muhammad Ali could bring him back, he seemingly largely dismissed any plans of reigniting his career. Even going so far as to suggest that the headlining bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor at UFC 257 would likely end up being a fight for his vacated title.
“Top three [lightweight] fighters right now?” Nurmagomedov responded when asked for his thoughts on the current lightweight elite (translation via RT Sport). ”Poirier, McGregor and [Islam] Makhachev. He is not in the top five yet, but those are the best fighters.
“My belt will be taken by the winner of Dustin and Conor.”
As for what the UFC has brought to the table so far? Nurmagomedov said that the promotion has been busy looking for ways to entice him back into competition, but it doesn’t sound like they have much to offer.
“I don’t blame them and their desire is understandable. They persuade, I will not hide, but this is not surprising. They offer conditions and fighters, but it’s hard to surprise fighters. I finished half of the top 10 ahead of schedule. And so yes, I repeat: there are conditions and offers. In a couple of weeks, Dana and I will discuss all the points.”
“I would not like that,” Khabib added when asked about the likelihood of him returning to competition.
It’s worth noting, however, that Nurmagomedov’s manager hit Twitter shortly after quotes from the fighter’s MatchTV interview started to spread, issuing an apparent denial that his client expects the UFC to award his title at UFC 257.
It seems like a weird spin considering the interview also includes Nurmagomedov appearing entirely uninterested in any kind of continuation of his career inside the cage. But, given the money at stake for another PPV with the champ’s 29-0 record on the line, it’s little wonder that those on the business side of the equation are doing whatever they can to keep him at the negotiation table.
UFC 257 is set to go down January 23rd in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum. Alongside the lightweight main event the UFC is planning a battle between women’s flyweigh top contenders Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and notes as fight night approaches, and as negotiations between White and Nurmagomedov really kick into gear.