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Dana White: If Khabib doesn’t want to return, ‘I won’t push it anymore’

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“I’m obviously gonna talk to Khabib and see if he wants to defend that title. And if he doesn’t, I won’t push it anymore”.

UFC 254: Press Conference Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Dana White might have to give up on Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The UFC president has tried, on multiple occasions, to convince Nurmagomedov to make a comeback and defend his UFC lightweight title but the undefeated Dagestani seems dead set on retirement.

White said prior to UFC 257 that Khabib was looking for ‘something spectacular’ to happen on Saturday night but neither Dustin Poirier’s KO of Conor McGregor or Michael Chandler’s first-round clubbing of Dan Hooker were enough to convince ‘The Eagle’ to change his mind.

“He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m on so many levels above these guys, I beat these guys,’” White told reporters at the post-fight press conference. “I don’t know what he’s… but it doesn’t sound very positive.”

White went on to say that he won’t push the issue anymore if Khabib’s decision is final.

“He was saying all kinds of things,” White said of Chandler’s post-fight callout of Khabib (h/t MMA Fighting’s Alexander K. Lee). “I can’t hear well, so I kept asking what he was saying, I didn’t get most of what he said but I knew he was fired up and I’m sure he was asking me for something, but I don’t know exactly what he said… But yeah, I’m obviously gonna talk to Khabib and see if he wants to defend that title. And if he doesn’t, I won’t push it anymore.”

“He wanted to see something spectacular, so I know he wanted Conor to lose, but there has to be a little piece of him inside that, you know—The fight with him and Conor would have been the biggest fight ever…” White said. “So the last few days, the way that this thing’s been trending—and you guys had to feel it with your numbers too, I mean our numbers were off the charts this week—I was saying that I felt Khabib-Conor could be the No. 3 fight all-time period in all combat sports. Today, I felt like it could be No. 1. I felt like it could beat McGregor-Mayweather.

“A piece of him had to want to be a part of a fight that big.”

With Khabib likely out of the lightweight title picture for good, White is trying to figure out who should fight next for the vacant championship.

Poirier and Chandler, who both came up big on Saturday, are the two obvious choices but it’s still too early for White to make a decision.

“It doesn’t matter because these two just fought, they’re not fighting again anytime soon,” he said. “We’ll get it figured out.”

Poirier has moved up to #1 in the UFC lightweight rankings while Chandler has rocketed up to #4. McGregor, who was predicted to beat Poirier, has dropped two places to #6.