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Dana White: Khabib could return if ‘something spectacular’ happens at UFC 257

According to UFC president Dana White, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement hinges on UFC 257 performances.

UFC 254: Khabib v Gaethje Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Dana White’s big announcement left MMA fans hanging.

In October, Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his UFC lightweight title with a submission win over Justin Gaethje. Moments after that win, which headlined UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement.

“Today, I want to say, this is my last fight,” an emotional Khabib said. “No way I’m gonna come here without my father. It was first time after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin, I talk with my mother three days. She don’t want I go fight without father, but I promise her it’s gonna be my last fight. And if I give my word, I have to follow this.”

White later said the title would stay with the undefeated Nurmagomedov. The UFC boss seemed to think the Dagestani fighter had announced the end of his career out of emotion.

Nurmagomedov and White got together on Friday in Abu Dhabi to discuss that retirement. In the lead up to the much-hyped sit down, White said the talk would take no more than five minutes and that it would come down to Nurmagomedov giving the UFC a yes or no answer about his future with the promotion.

The UFC promised White would have an announcement about Nurmagomedov’s future at 3:00, which was the start of the UFC Fight Island 7 broadcast on ABC. White did not appear until after the first fight on Saturday’s card.

Speaking to UFC commentator Jon Anik, a reserved White, speaking for the 32-year-old champ, said:

“He’s accomplished everything he set out to accomplish. He thought that Oliveira looked really good in his fight against Tony Ferguson. Next Saturday, we have the McGregor-Poirier fight and Chandler and Hooker on there.

“His words to me were, ‘I’m gonna watch this fight. I would never tie up the division, hold the belt, keep the belt away from anybody else. These guys do something spectacular, show me something spectacular, and make me want to come back and fight.’ So I have a feeling that if somebody delivers, it could be on the co-main event or the main event and like I said he thought Oliveira looked good. Two fights coming up, if these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them.”

UFC 257 takes place in Abu Dhabi next Saturday. The main event of that bout sees former interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier facing ex-two division UFC titleholder Conor McGregor. The co-main event of that pay-per-view event, sees former Bellator champion Michael Chandler opposite Dan Hooker.

According to White, it’s up to one of these men to draw Nurmagomedov back to the Octagon.