It sounds like Dana White’s still got a big stack of wolf tickets he needs to sell. The UFC president sat down with Complex Magazine in a recent interview to talk about the Super Bowl, UFC 258, and the hot button issue of the moment in MMA, the lightweight title picture.
When asked about Khabib Nurmagomedov’s recent comments that Dustin Poirier “deserves” to be champion, White let slip that – at least informally – the promotion is putting together something of a tournament to bring clarity to the division.
“The one that deserves to be the champion is the one that comes out on top in this tournament,” White revealed, when asked about Poirier. “I mean, if you look at—Khabib beat Conor, Khabib destroyed Dustin, Khabib is the man. He’s the champ, he’s the guy. If you look at the guys that deserve to be there? It’s whoever’s gonna win out of the top 5. You got Poirier, Gaethje, Oliveira, Chandler, and you still have Tony Ferguson and Conor in the mix too.”
When asked more pointedly, however, if the UFC has “moved on” from Khabib’s title reign, White was blunt in his response. As far as the promotion is concerned, the ‘Eagle’ is still very much an active title holder.
“No, we have not,” White told the outlet. “Khabib is the champion. Khabib’s coming to Vegas. He and I are going to go to dinner and talk and see what’s next.”
If that’s a lure to keep fans on the hook, however – and add intrigue into the next few months of UFC matchmaking – Nurmagomedov couldn’t sound more disinterested in maintaining the suspense. Speaking to reporters in a recent press conference, the longtime AKA fighter reiterated that he feels he’s achieved everything he wants in MMA and that people shouldn’t get excited about him meeting with Dana White again (transcript via RT Sport).
“We meet every time I’m there,” Nurmagomedov explained of his upcoming Vegas trip. “It’s just been hyped up too much recently, and I don’t like it. When I’m in Vegas, we always see each other for tea or dinner. I don’t want the media to know what we talk about. It’s between us.
“In short, I told him that I didn’t like that the division is stuck and it’s because of me,” he added, apparently speaking of their conversation in Abu Dhabi. “The top fighters have just fought each other and it’s clear who should fight for the belt and the interim title. They just fought. And the next fights are supposed to take place in May or June. There’s some time for match-making, but I’d like it all to be decided. And I let Dana know that I don’t want to hold it all up. I had my word. I achieved everything I wanted in this sport.”
With recent reports that the UFC is considering a rematch between Poirier and McGregor, and that Charles Oliveira has been steadfast in his desire to make his next bout one for the lightweight title, and Poirier’s complete disinterest in facing Chandler, it should be an interesting couple months to see just what the UFC can pull off. But, whatever they end up with, it still sounds like Nurmagomedov won’t be a part of it.