Last month at UFC 254 lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov successfully defended his title against Justin Gaethje and then announced his retirement from the sport, citing the death of his father, Abdulmanap, and a promise made to his mother to stop competing.
Just a few days after his announcement though, UFC President Dana White suggested that Khabib may not be done after all and teased that he believes the lightweight champion will return at least once more to pursue a 30-0 record. But though Dana White believes, or perhaps hopes, that to be true, not everyone else is so sure, including Khabib’s friend and teammate, former two-division champion Daniel Cormier.
Daniel Cormier is happy that UFC didn’t strip Khabib of title
Speaking on his ESPN show DC & Helwani, Cormier opined that Dana White is doing what he should as a promoter, hoping Khabib will change his mind, but that he still takes Nurmagomedov at his word that he’s done fighting.
“The only thing I said to Khabib was, ‘Brother, you have the shortest retirement in history. You retired for three days!’” Cormier joked. “We didn’t get much into it. We laughed about it a little bit but you know what, I think that if you’re Dana White, you’re saying what you need to. Hope that that is what Khabib wants to do.”
“I think if you’re Dana White and the UFC, you’re hopeful that’s what Khabib wants to do, but like I said last week, if Khabib Nurmagomedov gives his word, generally that’s a fact. Now, would I be surprised with the economic impact that a fight he could have could bring that could bring him back? No, and I would not judge him for that if he came back. He’s 32 years old for God’s sake and he can still beat everybody in the world. But there are things that if he says it’s his word, I take him at that.”
Nurmagomedov’s retirement is sure to be a topic of much speculation in the coming months. For one thing, if he truly is walking away from MMA, it leaves a vacancy atop the best division in the sport. Again, the general consensus seems to be that the rumored upcoming rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier will be for the vacant title but that would also mean the UFC has to give in to the notion that Nurmagomedov is retired, and thus far, Dana White is insisting they will not strip Khabib of his title.
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Welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio will make a return against Muslim Salikhov on Jan. 16