Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
It appears Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement may be short-lived.
This past Saturday following a second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 main event, the undefeated Russian laid his gloves down in the center of the octagon and announced that he was calling it a career.
After earning a 29-0 record, Nurmagomedov said he made a promise to his mother to retire from competition following one more fight, which came months after the tragic death of his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
Now, UFC President Dana White believes “The Eagle” may fly again.
“I’ll tell you this and I haven’t told anybody this yet, but Khabib and I have been talking,” White revealed when speaking to the Zach Gelb Show. “He was completely emotional that night when he got through that fight. I have a feeling that he might go for 30-0.”
Nurmagomedov was understandably emotional following his win over Gaethje as he honored the memory of his late father with his performance.
Even his head coach, Javier Mendez, later said he was completely unaware that Nurmagomedov was contemplating retirement until he made the announcement in the octagon.
While Nurmagomedov appeared to be resolute in his decision, White believes the reigning UFC lightweight champion will be back for at least one more fight.
“I do [think he’s coming back],” White said. “I think that he’s not going to retire. His dad wanted him to get to 30-0 and I think he wants to honor his dad’s wish.”
If Nurmagomedov is contemplating a return to action, there’s no word on a potential opponent, though he has said numerous times that his dream fight would be against former two-division UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
Even St-Pierre, who retired in 2019, has candidly said he would only return for a fight that would add to his already sterling legacy — and that a showdown with Nurmagomedov definitely qualifies.
Prior to UFC 254, St-Pierre hinted at a possible comeback if the UFC would consider booking him against Nurmagomedov.
“I’ve still got it – I would say I’m still in my best years,” St-Pierre said in October. “Will I regret when I reach 50 years old? Will I tell myself I wish I had done that and I did not do that.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime to fight a guy [in Khabib Nurmagomedov], who’s undefeated, who’s never been beat and I could have been the first.”
White has also previously teased that he had something special in mind for Nurmagomedov if he dispatched Gaethje, but those plans fell by the wayside in the wake of his retirement.
Now it seems White may get the chance to lure Nurmagomedov back for another fight, but he’s still not ready to reveal his secret just yet.
“I haven’t even told him that,” White said. “Because he was going to retire, so I haven’t even said it to him. I’m not going to say anything publicly.”