At the onset of Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 7 main card, broadcast on ABC, Dana White had an announcement to make. And here it is, in a nutshell.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is undecided. But if he does return to fighting, he wants to see something special out of the lightweight division.
It’s a bit underwhelming, to be honest. But maybe no news is good news. It seems Khabib hasn’t ruled out a return, at least. The Dagestani fighter, 29-0, who announced his retirement following UFC 254 back in November, remains the UFC’s de facto lightweight champion, as White refused to accept his retirement right away. That, as Nurmagomedov was still emotional in the fake of his father’s death.
The pair met face-to-face this week in Abu Dhabi, ahead of White’s announcement, which came following the Soriano vs. Todorovic card opener Saturday.
“Basically, the way [Khabib] feels right now is, he’s accomplished everything he’s set out of accomplish,” White said during the UFC on ABC 1 broadcast. However, White noted, the champ did highlight the recent performance of Charles Oliveira at UFC 256, which saw “Do Bronx” defeat longtime Nurmagomedov rival Tony Ferguson.
As well, the champ will have a keen eye on the fights next weekend. “His words to me were, I’m going to watch this fight. I would never tie up the division, hold the belt or keep the belt away from everybody else,” reported White. But, Khabib will be watching the two big lightweight bouts at UFC 257.
“These guys, do something spectacular. Show me something spectacular, and make me want to come back and fight,” White recalled Nurmagomedov telling him.
White suggested that if somebody delivers at UFC 257, perhaps “The Eagle” could return. Clearly, he still has some competitive desire.
The UFC had touted White’s announcement earlier in the day, putting out a press release to hype “Khabib’s Decision.” While not quite a Lebron James level production, Nurmagomedov’s decision to retire or not of course has immediate impact on the future of the lightweight division. Especially with UFC 257 looming, which will see former champ Conor McGregor face former interim champ Dustin Poirier in a rematch of their 2014 featherweight meeting.
In addition to McGregor vs. Poirier 2, UFC 257 also features the promotional debut of multi-time Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler, who will go up against Dan Hooker.
Khabib vs. McGregor at UFC 229 remains the UFC’s highest-selling PPV event of all time.