All signs are pointing to Khabib Nurmagomedov staying true to his word and retiring in the wake of his UFC 254 victory over Justin Gaethje. Despite UFC President Dana White’s insistence, Nurmagomedov seems set to hang up his gloves and, with them, his UFC lightweight championship.
With Nurmagomedov gone from the promotion’s hall of champions, and the pound-for-pound rankings, the UFC will now have to decide who gets to compete for the Eagle’s vacated 155 lb title.
The current UFC lightweight rankings have the recently defeated Gaethje sitting in the top contender spot. Directly below him are Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson.
Poirier vs. McGregor is on tap for UFC 257 in January. However, it does not seem there will be a belt on the line.
Javier Mendez, who coached Nurmgomdeov at the American Kickboxing Academy, recently appeared on The Schmozone podcast, where he discussed what he thought would happen with the lightweight belt.
“Let’s face it, if in fact [Numagomedov is] not coming back, and we know that for a fact - and I don’t know that - but if in fact he’s not, then the rightful person that should be fighting for the title is Dustin against anybody,” Mendez said (ht MMA Fighting). “So to me, they got one of the right persons in there. Conor would be the second right one, or it could be Justin Gaethje or it could be Michael Chandler. It doesn’t matter. Or (Charles) Oliveira. What matters is that Dustin is in the title hunt because he’s the one that, in my opinion, is most deserving of a title shot.”
Poirier heads into his fight with McGregor on the heels of a unanimous (and thrilling) decision victory over Dan Hooker earlier this year. Prior to that win Poirier lost to Nurmagomedov, via submission, in a title fight in September 2019.
To earn his title fight Poirier went on a tear, going undefeated since a KO loss to Michael Johnson in 2016 and beating Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje. Eddie Alvarez and Max Holloway.
In addition to talking about the future of the lightweight title, Mendez also touched on the future of Nurmagomedov. And Mendez continued to express his belief that Nurmagomedov was retired from the sport. However, he did leave some wiggle room open for the possibility the Dagestani returns for just one more fight against a man he has never faced before.
“I don’t know, because we never talked about it, but I can only tell you this. His father, his vision was for Khabib to fight GSP and retire at 30-0. So if Dana anything to do with anything, it isn’t a boatload of money because I don’t believe that’s gonna be the case. It would be something to the effect of something that very much interests him. So maybe a GSP fight. I don’t know, I’m guessing.
“But in order for that to happen, he’d have to go to the No. 1 person that he promised he would retire (to), and that would be his mother, not me. I’m on board for whatever he wants to do. So he’d have to clear it with his mother if he wants to do anything.”