UFC Lightweight Title Not Vacant, Dana White Leaves Door Open for Khabib Return

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, UFC 254
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 25: (R-L) Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia takes down Justin Gaethje in their lightweight title bout during the UFC 254 event on October 25, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

One week ago, the world witnessed the retirement on lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Following an emotional night at UFC 254, “The Eagle” confirmed that he was done fighting, in the absence of his late father, and after making a promise to his mother that he would not continue.

Given the gravity of the situation — the loss of a parent to the COVID-19 pandemic — most took Khabib at face value. Even UFC President Dana White appeared to believe the Dagestani fighter was done.

One week later, however, and White has left the door open for a return. Asked by Cageside Press at the UFC Vegas 12 post-fight press conference to elaborate on a conversation he had with the 29-0 lightweight earlier this week, White revealed that Khabib “didn’t say that he’ll fight or whatever. But he didn’t say no. He’s considering the 30-0. His father wanted it. I think that he was super emotional, had the mumps, measles, whatever. Had a broken toe, trained on a stationary bike for that fight, then camp in and fought.”

While the UFC waits on Khabib’s final decision, Khabib is “still the champ,” White added. “There’s no vacant title open right now, or no interim title happening. He’s still the champ. We’ll give him some time to figure out what he wants to do.”

Asked for his gut feeling, White added “I feel pretty good [about Khabib coming back]. He said he was going to talk with his mother.”

Compare that to another recent high profile retirement. When Henry Cejudo retired and vacated the bantamweight title earlier this year, the UFC wasted little time in booking Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo. With that in mind, it appears they have reason to believe Khabib might stick around after all.

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