Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. He said he was retired. He’s still retired. He’s staying retired. We all knew this and it finally seems that UFC President Dana White has joined us in that thinking.
During the UFC Vegas 22 post-fight show the former UFC lightweight champion reconfirmed his retirement status, something he announced way back in October after beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, and discussed White’s fruitless efforts to convince him to come back to the sport.
“No [I never contemplated coming back], but Dana called this [later retirement statement] official,” chuckled Nurmagomedov (ht MMA Fighting). “But I retired like five, six months ago. It’s very funny. Dana told me when he posted this, he said someone write me comment about, ‘He retired not today, he retired like five months ago.’ It’s funny a little bit, but we have some conversations with Dana a couple of times. Like two days ago, we meet with him, sit, talk like two real men. We have a very good conversation with him, good dinner.
“I really appreciated him. Everything what he did, not only for me, but for all this sport. Because UFC’s a big platform. A lot of people around the world because of UFC make money and give food for his kids, for clothes. They’re doing a great job. That’s why I want to say thank you to all UFC team. [Former UFC co-owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta], Dana, everyone who signed me, [former UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva, like everybody, [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby. These guys are doing a great job. Because of these people, a lot of people have money, they have food for their family. Thank you guys.”
Nurmagomedov did concede that he understood why so many, including White, might question his decision to retire at 29-0 and at number one in the pound-for-pound rankings. However, the Dagestani asked that onlookers try and understand his point of view.
“It’s very hard when you have power, when you’re the best in the world, when you’re famous, when you have money and say [no] to everything, like these things. This is very hard. People maybe never going to understand me but I really hope they’re going to support my decision.
“Because everybody has their views. My views and my relationship with my mother, like I feel I have to stop because I feel like in every fight, in every training camp, everything, this is some age from my mother. It’s like what do I have to do?”
When Nurmagomedov announced his retirement last year he was doing so out of a commitment he made to his mother. Last year Nurmagomedov’s mother became a widow when her husband, Abdulmanap, passed away from complications related to COVID-19.
Even though he left for the sport for family reasons, Nurmagomedov made sure to emphasise that there were plenty of sporting reasons for him to call it a career.
“I come to this sport to show who I am, to become the best. I am a world champion. I am pound-for-pound No. 1. I defended my title three times. I won biggest fight in UFC history. What else? Only money. Only money fights but I don’t need money fights. It’s like everything what we did with my father since I was a kid. Like when I began training on mats, in my village, inside the house. When father put me wrestling with a bear, when I told him ‘hey, this bear tried to bite me’ and I remember when told me ‘bite him back, no problem, you have to wrestle, you have to keep going.’ Since when I was a kid, how we grew up with each other, how father take care of me and everything.
“Then I become world champion combat sambo. I become two-time world champion combat sambo. Then I have 16-0 [record] outside the UFC. Then the UFC signs me and I have a 13 [fight] win streak, become a world champion, everything. I’m very happy about all my journey. Right now, I feel I don’t have nothing to prove, to show people who I am. I do everything in this sport. I feel I don’t need to do nothing. Two days ago, when I talk with Dana, I tell him everything that I feel and he said he’s going to support me anyways. I’m very happy about this.”
Despite Nurmagomedov saying there is no chance of fans seeing him putting on the gloves again, the Eagle said he would still be a presence in MMA and the UFC.
“I have my brothers, they’re still fighting in the UFC. I’m going to support them. I’m going to be around guys. I’m not going to let you guys miss me. Inside the cage, I don’t feel I have to go inside the cage and do something. I fight 29 times. I think it’s enough.”