When Khabib Nurmagomedov stepped away from the Octagon, right after dumpstering Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, he made his thoughts very clear about why. There’s nothing to ‘read between the lines’ when he talks openly about the difficulty of fighting without his father, and his promise to his mother to stick with said decision. So naturally, Dana White is still trying to get him to fight.
Dana still has him listed as the lightweight champion: something Khabib has openly admitted seems silly, since all it does is create confusion, and jam up the division. For Dana’s part, he’s absolutely convinced that Khabib hates Conor so much, he’d be willing to forego any promises to his family following his father’s death just so he could spend more time in the cage with a man he hates “so bad.”
It’s a goofy storyline, but for Daniel Cormier, it’s a necessity.
“As a promoter, you have to do that,” Cormier told reporters (transcription via MMA Junkie) at the UFC 258 weigh-ins. “We have to understand that as a promoter, you have to get one of the biggest stars in your organization to try to fight. So if there is an inkling of a chance, you continue to press down that path (and) that’s what Dana’s doing.”
In fairness to this entire circus, Khabib seemingly hasn’t given Dana the magic words he needs to stop pestering him. Dana seems to think that the mere fact Khabib is willing to talk leaves open the possibility that he’s willing to come back. Khabib seems to have a more casual interpretation of their meetings; ‘I’m here, might as well grab some coffee.’ Cormier did add some some insider info: ‘Khabib’s a man of his word.’
Unfortunately, none of this clarifies the future of lightweight. According to Dana, Conor McGregor is ‘obsessed’ (seems to be one of Dana’s favorite pastimes; putting words in fighter’s mouths) with a trilogy with Dustin Poirier. Unfortunately it’s not for a title, which has left other lightweights to complain about other lightweights. Strange times, indeed.