UFC president Dana White hasn’t given up hope of Khabib Nurmagomedov reversing his recent retirement decision and says that he will give the Russian fighter time to figure out his next move.
Nurmagomedov surprised even some of his closest teammates when he tearfully announced his retirement following last weekend’s second-round submission win against Justin Gaethje, but White is hoping that the undefeated Dagestani can be persuaded to take on one final fight in an effort to achieve the 30-0 record both he and his late father Abdulmanap had targeted for their exit strategy from the sport.
However, Abdulmanap’s tragic passing in July as a result of complications related to COVID-19 put a significant spanner in those plans – with Khabib telling UFC commentator Jon Anik that he had promised his mother that he wouldn’t continue his combat career outside of his father’s influence.
White, though, isn’t so sure that Khabib’s decision to step away from the sport is set in stone and hopes that he can persuade one of his biggest pay-per-view assets to come back one more time.
“He didn’t say he’d fight but he didn’t say no,” White told the media in Las Vegas following Saturday’s fight card.
“He’s considering the 30-0. His father wanted it and I think that he was super-emotional – had the mumps, measles – whatever. Broken toe. [He] trained on a stationary bike for that fight and came in and fought.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the 155 champ, per Dana White. He says he is pretty sure he will come back for #30.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) November 1, 2020
Dana White also told me Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the lightweight champion. He’s not SURE Nurmagomedov will return, but he’s in rush to move the division on without him. He told me not to expect any lightweight fight booked in the near future to be for a vacant title.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) November 1, 2020
White continued, saying that Khabib’s decision to end his career last weekend was made a time when the fighter was extremely emotional and he says that Nurmagomedov remains the champion at 155 pounds – and that there are no plans to strip him, or introduce an interim title to the division.
“I think that he was super-emotional,” White explained.
“He’s still the champ. There’s no vacant title open right now or interim title happening. He’s the champ and we’ll give him some time to figure out what he wants to do.
“I feel pretty good [about it]. He said he was going to talk with his mother.”
In the absence of a further declaration of retirement from Nurmagomedov, attention will now turn to the potential opponent should Khabib strap on the four-ounce gloves one final time.
UFC icon Georges St-Pierre had been linked with a legacy-defining fight with the undefeated Nurmagomedov, while Conor McGregor will also be linked to a rematch with his old rival should he get past Dustin Poirier in their proposed January bout.
Either way, Dana White is hoping that the final chapter of one of his most successful champions has yet to be written.