Well, this is quite the development. UFC lightweight champion, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov emotionally called time on his professional career following his second-round triangle win over interim champion, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje, at 29-0 last weekend at UFC 254. This evening, UFC president Dana White has told how he believes Khabib may have one more fight in him after all.
Khabib, who successfully unified the lightweight crowns scored his third consecutive successful title defence and revealed how he had made a prior promise to his mother that he would hang up his gloves following his clash with Gaethje, after the passing of his father and coach, Abdulamanap earlier this year.
The Dagestan native, who beckoned his corner to remain outside the Octagon after his finish over Gaethje collapsed to the Octagon canvas in tears after an emotional lead up to his fight. Along with the passing of his father due to complications stemming from COVID-19, Khabib had broken his foot three weeks before UFC 254 and was reportedly also struck down with a case of mumps.
Deciding against appearing at the post-fight press conference, Khabib seemed to have walked off into the sunset after the victory, with speculation mounting as to who could possibly compete for the soon to be vacated 155-pound throne.
Debate started to flurry with many predicting a targeted UFC 257 rematch between former gold holders, Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier, and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor could possibly house a vacant title fight at their proposed January 23rd. matchup.
Along with that potential scenario, former three-time Bellator lightweight best, promotional newcomer, Michael Chandler floated the idea of a four-man tournament to crown a new lightweight champion, featuring himself, the above-noted pair of Poirier and McGregor, as well as discussed opponent, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson.
With these latest developments, however, the need for a tournament bracket or even a vacant title matchup may not be necessary, especially if White’s prediction comes to fruition.
“Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and I have been talking,” White explained on The Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio this afternoon. “He was completely emotional that night when he got through that fight. I have a feeling he might go for 30-0. I think he’s not going to retire. His dad wanted him to get to 30-0, and I think he wants to honour his dad’s wish.“
White’s recent comments follow an interview Khabib took part in with RT Sport, explaining how he could make his own money, and how he felt the time was right for him to walk away from mixed martial arts.
“Of course, Dana (White) wants me to continue fighting and generate revenue,” Khabib said. “I can make money myself. I’m at the peak of my career and can fight for very large purses, but I made this decision (to retire), and I think this is the best time. Not everyone can retire at their peak, but I know that in a year, two of five I’d have to face that decision again.“
“I did enough in the sport to be considered the best. Today, I was ranked as the #1 pound-for-pound fighter, so the mission is accomplished. What else is there to do? Make money? I’ll always be able to do that.“