Although the former lightweight champ said it months ago, UFC President Dana White refused to accept it. But after months of speculation and an underwhelming non-announcement about “Khabib’s Decision,” White has finally ceded defeat. Khabib Nurmagomedov is officially retired.
The UFC’s head honcho confirmed the news on Thursday, taking to social media to thank Nurmagomedov for everything he had done for the promotion.
29-0 it is.
— danawhite (@danawhite) March 19, 2021
“He is 100% officially retired. It was incredible to watch you work, @TeamKhabib. Thank you for EVERYTHING and enjoy whatever is next my friend,” White wrote, in addition to posting a photo of the pair together.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) first announced his intention to retire following UFC 254 last October. The “Fight Island” card was the first fight for Khabib since “The Eagle” lost his father to COVID-19 over the summer. A clearly emotional Nurmagomedov looked beside himself on the walk out to the octagon, but performed as always inside it, putting away the tough-as-nails Justin Gaethje with a second-round submission.
He then shocked everyone by announcing he was done. No fight with Tony Ferguson. No rematch with Conor McGregor. No super-fight with Georges St. Pierre. “The Eagle” had flown the coop, for good.
White, for weeks and then months afterward, suggested that Khabib might return. In January, the non-event that was promoted as “Khabib’s Decision” came down to the fighter wanting to see something “spectacular” from the lightweights at UFC 257. Michael Chandler did indeed do something spectacular in his octagon debut, then unleashed a Rick Flair inspired promo afterward, calling out the ex-champ. That, apparently, wasn’t spectacular enough.
With Khabib’s exit officially confirmed, the UFC now has a vacant lightweight title on its hands. Any one of Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, and Charles Oliveira could be in the conversation for the next title shot — although Poirier has been linked to a trilogy fight with Conor McGregor.
Nurmagomedov, meanwhile, leaves as one of the rare fighters to exit the sport undefeated after competing at the highest level. The Dagestani, known for his smothering ground game, earned wins over Poirier, McGregor, Gaethje, Rafael dos Anjos, and others during his career. Not a one could solve the puzzle that the American Kickboxing Academy fighter posed.