Prior to the UFC’s debut on ABC, the revelation of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s next move was billed as something akin to LeBron James’ infamous “Decision.” In reality, it wasn’t much of a decision at all.
UFC president Dana White revealed the gist of his meeting with Nurmagomedov during Saturday’s broadcast, but as it turns out, the lightweight champion didn’t reveal anything definitive regarding a potential comeback.
At best, Nurmagomeodv is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Like I said, I thought that in his last fight his father had passed away, he’d been through a lot,” White said. “He’d been away from his family during that time, got injured while he was training and I thought that he made an emotional decision. There was no reason to make a hasty decision like that then when he didn’t have to.
“I talked to him, I told him to take his time. We would get together later on. Last night, we did. And basically the way that he feels right now is, he’s accomplished everything he set out to accomplish.”
“The Eagle” announced his retirement following a victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 this past October. In recent interviews, White expressed confidence that he would be able to convince Nurmagomedov to return in pursuit of a 30-0 career mark. According to White, Nurmagomedov left the door only slightly ajar for a comeback by expressing interest in the performances of a few top lightweights.
“He thought that [Charles] Oliveira looked really good in his last fight against Tony Ferguson. Next Saturday we’ve got the McGregor-Poirier fight and Chandler-Hooker on there.
“His words to me were: I’m gonna watch this fight [at UFC 257]. He said, I would never tie up the division … Show me something spectacular and make me want to come back and fight. I have the feeling that if somebody delivers — it could be on the co-main event or the main event — two fights coming up, Oliveira looked great… If these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them.”
UFC 257 takes place next Saturday and is headlined by a rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. In the co-main event, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler will make his promotional debut against Dan Hooker. White is holding out hope that at least one of those four men will leave a lasting impression on Nurmagomedov.
“He’s the best in the world right now. His best performance was against Gaethje with all that stuff going on. He just needed some time to clear his head,” White said. “If these guys do what I think they’re gonna do next weekend, it sounds like he might be interested in fighting one of them.”