The time for Dana White’s long-awaited meeting with Khabib Nurmagomedov is fast approaching, and the UFC president remains resolute that the lightweight champion will step into the Octagon one last time.
"I'm obviously meeting with him because I think that he should fight again," White told ESPN. "Look at what he did to Justin Gaethje [in October]. Look at what he's done to every opponent he has faced. ... I think he should fight again and I'm going to press him as hard as I can for one more."
Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in the cage following his victory over Gaethje at UFC 254, citing a promise he made to his mother before the bout. The Dagestani star endured a difficult 2020 that saw him lose his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, to complications related to COVID-19. The UFC has not vacated Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title, but “The Eagle” recently said that he expects the winner of the Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier headliner at UFC 257 to be crowned the 155-pound king.
However, White still believes that Nurmagomedov will come back to fulfill his father’s wish that he end his MMA career with a 30-0 record.
"As a promoter, you always want to see the best guys in the world, but at the same time, when a guy wants to retire, he probably should," White said. "The difference with a guy like Khabib is he's been through so much, and losing his dad was a major blow to him. Yet, his dad wanted him to hit 30-0.”
Also significant is the possibility of a rematch with McGregor if the Irishman defeats Poirier at UFC 257. Nurmagomedov’s first meeting with McGregor at UFC 229, though it was marred by bad blood and a post-fight melee, was reportedly the top-selling pay-per-view in promotion history with approximately 2.4 million buys.
Another fight between the two rivals would undoubtedly be blockbuster business for the UFC, and that alone is incentive enough for White to keep trying to lure Nurmagomedov back to the Octagon.
"No matter what you think of Conor personally, Conor McGregor is not only one of the best in the world, but one of the best to ever do it,” White said. “And right now, he's as focused as he's ever been. I don't know if this is going to be the same Conor after the Poirier fight, but if this Conor sticks around for the next year, how do you not do Khabib vs. Conor again?"