It doesn’t sound like Dana White will have much luck persuading Khabib Nurmagomedov to make a comeback when the two meet in Abu Dhabi next month.
In an interview with Match TV, Nurmagomedov stated that he expects a new lightweight champion to be crowned when Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier square off in the UFC 257 headliner on Jan. 23.
“Top three [lightweight] fighters right now?” Nurmagomedov said (translation via RT Sport). “Poirier, McGregor and [Islam] Makhachev. He [Makhachev] is not in the top-five yet, but those are the best fighters.
“My belt will be taken by the winner of Dustin and Conor.”
Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following a victory over Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 headliner this past October. Though many expected “The Eagle” to take one more fight in hopes of finishing his career with a 30-0 record to fulfill the wishes of his late father, Nurmagomedov revealed in the Octagon that he made a promise to his mother that he would retire after the bout. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died of complications related to COVID-19 earlier this year.
The UFC has not vacated the lightweight title, and there has been no announcement regarding the championship status of McGregor-Poirier as of yet. That is likely because White still has hope that he can convince Nurmagomedov to come back.
“I think his dad wanting him to get to 30-0 is in the back of his mind, and he wants to achieve that because he knew his father wanted it,” White said recently. “But we’ll see. Him and I are getting together [in January] and talk. He might not want to fight, I don’t know the answer to that. But I’m a little confident that I can talk him into it.”
Nurmagomedov acknowledged that he has engaged in preliminary conversation with White regarding a return, but it seems as though the Dagestani star is not especially interested in the possibility.
“We are in touch with Dana White, we have not discussed why the belt is not vacant,” Nurmagomedov said (translation via TASS). “Apparently they want me to come back. I have been in league for nine years, there is already a history, a fan base, their desires are clear. I will not hide the fact that they offer to return, offer conditions, fighters. We will meet with Dana soon, we will discuss. I would not like there to be a possibility that I will return.”