Abu Dhabi, UAE — Fighters retire and return like clockwork in MMA. But given the loss of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father, and his promise to his mother that UFC 254 would be his final fight, it feels like this one might stick. At 29-0, “The Eagle” has little left to prove.
Dana White is apparently of a similar opinion. Asked if he believes Khabib is really retired after his win over Justin Gaethje, White said simply “I do.”
Although Khabib insisted ahead of the fight that he would not retire, from the get-go, something seemed different. He was in tears walking to the cage. He was in tears after the win. There’s no question, the loss of father Abdulmanap weighed heavily on him.
“What this guy’s been through, we’re all lucky that we got to see him fight tonight,” said White at the beginning of the UFC 254 post-fight press conference. “And I’m hearing rumors of other things that I didn’t know about, that you guys will hear about when he comes out later I’m sure.”
Khabib never did come out. The press conference ended without the (now former, in theory) champion attending. Luckily, White provided the details. “Apparently, he was in the hospital, he broke his foot.” It’s an injury that happened three weeks earlier, White confirmed. “So he has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken, or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me. Never told anybody. Walking around. He’s one of the toughest human beings on the planet, he’s the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and seriously, you have to start putting him up there at GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT.”
White has never been one to try to talk a fighter out of retirement. But he didn’t seem to close the door on Khabib fighting entirely. “Let him take some time off. Let him heal, not physically, but emotionally heal with what he’s going through, from losing his father. That’s it. We’re all lucky we got to see what we saw tonight,” he said, asked if he’d present any ideas to the lightweight star.
As for other fights up in the air, Michael Chandler still needs a fight. Nothing, however, has been set for the former Bellator champ, said White. “We’re almost done with this shitty year. We’ll get home and figure out what’s next,” the UFC President stated.
Then there’s Robert Whittaker, who put on a dominant showing in the UFC 254 co-main event. It seems like a rematch with Israel Adesanya could be next. “It’s very appealing to me. It’s the fight that makes sense right now,” White stated. The champ had spoken of wanting to fight Jared Cannonier, had he got past Whittaker on Saturday. He did not. “Adesanya has a lot of options, but the fight that makes the most sense right now is Whittaker.”
White was also asked about the possibility of McGregor vs. Poirier 2 being for the lightweight title, with Khabib out of the picture. “Don’t ask me the future or what the f*ck is going on with anything else, because I have no idea,” retorted White. “I’ve been here for five weeks, man, getting through this shitty-ass year, and I’m just ready to f*cking go home, and we’ll figure out what’s next. As soon as we have answers, you’ll know.”
Exit stage left for White. The UFC now heads back to Las Vegas, with a Fight Night card topped by Anderson Silva vs. Uriah Hall next week. But the matchmakers and White will have a lot to think about when it comes to the lightweight division if Khabib’s retirement sticks.
Watch the full UFC 254 post-fight press conference with Dana White above.