UFC lightweight fighter Kevin Lee thinks that UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov should voluntarily vacate his belt instead of putting the division on hold.
From the moment that Khabib Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring—following a successful title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October—White has insisted in interviews that he expected Nurmagomedov to reconsider ending his competitive career. As recently as last Saturday, White said that at a meeting with Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi, the lightweight champion told him he might return to action if “something special” happened at UFC 257.
Even with that statement wins, White admitted that he’s not convinced they were enough to draw Nurmagomedov back into the fold after speaking with him after Saturday night’s event.
“I did talk to Khabib,” White said at the evening’s post-fight presser. “He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys.’ I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s—it doesn’t sound very positive, so we’ll see.
“And what he said was, I told you guys before, he won’t hold the division up. I mean, he already retired. He’s retired, I’m the one that’s been trying to get him to do one more.”
That’s the first time White has at least somewhat waved the white flag when it comes to Nurmagomedov’s comeback negotiations, which isn’t surprising given that he had already said earlier this week that he was not planning to go back on a promise he made to his mother. Khabib didn’t even stick around to watch UFC 257 in-person, instead of leaving Abu Dhabi after corning his cousin Umar Nurmagomedov to a win on Wednesday.
Kevin Lee wants Khabib to vacate the belt
Lee is one of the top-15 lightweights in the world and is one of the fighters striving to hold the belt that Nurmagomedov currently wears around his waist. However, with “The Eagle” openly talking about retiring, Lee wants him to give up his title and let the rest of the division be able to fight for it again. Speaking to SCMP MMA, Lee said he hopes the UFC lets Nurmagomedov retire in peace and encouraged him to give up his belt.
“I think the man should go ahead and retire. (The UFC) should let him retire, let him enjoy himself, and let him take his mind off the sport. Dana has said this before — once a guy starts talking about retirement, this isn’t a sport you want to stick around with. You should go ahead and do it and let the division go on,” Lee said about Nurmagomedov.
“Let us keep working. Let somebody else hold that belt for a little bit. (Nurmagomedov) will be back — there’s no doubt about that — but let him be missed for a little bit. I think that’s the best option.”
Lee himself is set to return to the Octagon in the coming months after missing the past year due to double knee surgery. As Kevin Lee’s return is getting near, he’s already got a name and date in mind.
The UFC lightweight contender would like to rematch former interim champion, Tony Ferguson, in his return to fighting. Lee lost to Ferguson by third-round submission in an interim lightweight title fight in 2017 at UFC 216. It’s the only time he’s headlined a UFC pay-per-view event. Lee thinks Ferguson is still a top fighter, but maybe not for long. He’s interested in facing Ferguson now before any potential age-related decline in his game.
Ferguson is coming off losses to Justin Gaethje and Charles Olivera, which snapped an impressive 12-fight winning streak that lasted nearly six years. Lee is adamant now is the time to fight “El Cucuy” before it’s too late.
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