UFC president, Dana White remains on the campaign trail this weekend to try and convince current undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov to snap his October retirement — as the two are set to meet on either Saturday or Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Calling time on his career at UFC 254 in October last year, Khabib, who had lost his father and renowned sambo coach, Abdulmanap earlier in the year amid complications after he had contracted COVID-19 — defeated Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight titles. Citing the passing of his father as the reason for his retirement, Khabib explained how he had made a promise to his mother that he wouldn’t make another professional appearance without his father by his side.
In the months since, UFC leader, White has openly spoken of his interest in Khabib making one final, thirtieth professional mixed martial arts walk, even transparently speaking about the potential numbers a rematch with arch-rival, former two-weight world champion, Conor McGregor would do — before the Dubliner’s UFC 257 knockout loss to Dustin Poirier in January.
Despite voicing his confusion as to why he’s still ranked as the number-one pound-for-pound fighter by the UFC and why he retains the undisputed championship despite his retirement, Khabib has remained firm that he hopes to continue his academic studies in his retirement as well as tend to his own personal farm and livestock in Dagestan.
With Poirier and McGregor widely expected to matchup for a trilogy, rubber-match immediately following their January ‘Fight Island’ run-in — the UFC is currently working on fielding the third matchup of the two this summer.
Despite calls from contenders for the division to move on, White maintains there’s still a chance Khabib could make an Octagon return — once contenders ranked from nine to one battle it out to determine who should fight for the championship. Further detailing how whilst Khabib fails to ask him to stop posing the question of a comeback, he believes there’s a chance he returns.
“Yeah, we’re going to have dinner on Saturday or Sunday,
” White told TASS reporter, Igor Lazorin at a press conference
on Thursday. “And then just talk, and see — I think that a lot of these fights have to play out in that division, from (number) nine, all the way up to number one. They’re incredible fights, you can mix and match any way you want, and they’re really good fights. And let some of these play out to see who will fight next for the title.
“And I think that if Khabib (Nurmagomedov) is interested, you know, he’ll take the fight,” White said. “You don’t hear Khabib saying, ‘leave me alone, stop asking’. So there’s still a chance, that’s the way I look at it.“
Scoring three consecutive successful defences of the lightweight championship, Khabib scored a tripleheader of submission knockbacks against the aforenoted trio of former titleholders, McGregor, Poirier, and Gaethje.