Khabib Nurmagomedov leaves door open for UFC return

Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov abruptly announced his retirement following his submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October. On Saturday, UFC president Dana White revealed what happened in a Friday meeting with the champion.

Nurmagomedov left the door open to return to the octagon, but didn’t fully commit to a return. Reflecting on Nurmagomedov’s retirement announcement, White was shocked.

“I was shocked. I obviously didn’t know that was coming. I think the whole place was. Everybody was standing at attention and hanging on every word,” White said.

“I thought, in his last fight, his father had passed away. He had been through a lot. He had been away from his family during that time, got injured while he was training, and I thought that he made an emotional decision. There was no reason to make a hasty decision like that then. We didn’t have to.”

During his meeting with Nurmagomedov, White stated that the champion wants to wait and see what happens in upcoming matches.

“I talked to him, I told him to take his time, we’d get together later on. Last night we did, and basically that way that he feels right now is he’s accomplished everything that he set out to accomplish.

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“He thought that (Charles) Oliveira looked good in his last fight against Tony Ferguson. So next Saturday, we got the (Conor) McGregor and (Dustin) Poirier fight and (Michael) Chandler and (Dan) Hooker on there. So his words to me were, I’m going to watch this fight. He said I would never tie up the division. I would never tie up the division, hold the belt and keep the belt away from anybody else. These guys do something spectacular, show me something spectacular and make me want to come back and fight,” White said.

White remains optimistic that Nurmagomedov will fight again. It’s just a matter of who will put in a performance that entices the champion.

“I have the feeling that if somebody delivers, it could be in the co-main event or main event, and he thought Oliveira looked good. Two fights coming up, Oliveira looked great. If these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them,” White said.