Khabib Nurmagomedov has predicted a bright future for the UFC's lightweight division – but snubbed bitter rival Conor McGregor.
The former 155lb champion finally relinquished his belt earlier this year having first announced his retirement following his title defence against Justin Gaethje last October.
The vacant strap was won by Charles Oliveira who stopped Michael Chandler last month and the Brazilian is likely to make the first defence of his title against the winner of McGregor's trilogy bout with Dustin Poirier.
The rivals, who first clashed in 2014, will settle their beef on July 10, six months after Poirier stopped the Irishman in the second round.
And while Nurmagomedov acknowledged Poirier's place among the lightweight elite, he failed to mention McGregor.
"There are many fighters at the top of the rankings who haven't won anything for a long time now," he told UFC Russia.
"If Islam [Makhachev] wins in July he will have eight wins in a row and he will keep moving forward.
"[There is] such a nice composition to the division; not only [the Russians] but also the Brazilians. For instance, take a look at Oliveira or Rafael Dos Anjos.
"The Americans are also well-represented in the division; Poirier, [Justin] Gaethje and Chandler. So it is going to be fun; like the World War… the Russians, the Americans and the Brazilians.
"This division has always been interesting and difficult… so it will be fun by the end of this year."
Nurmagomedov endured a long and bitter rivalry with McGregor before he choked out the Dubliner in 2018.
He also choked out Poirier the following year as he continued his dominant reign in the lightweight division.
But he chose to bow out with a perfect record of 29-0 after losing his father last year having promised his mother that he would not fight on and announced his decision following his effortless win over Gaethje.
UFC president Dana White attempted to convince his star lightweight to continue but was unable to coax him back into the cage.
Nurmagomedov continues to be linked with a return, potentially against fellow UFC legend Georges Saint-Pierre, but the Dagestani's coach recently confirmed he will not make a comeback without the blessing of his mother.
Nurmagomedov did, however, predict that McGregor will only have his hand raised next weekend if he stops Poirier in the first round.
"It’s the same thing [as the previous fight],” he added.
"If it’s the first round [for a finish], I’d back Conor. From the second and further, then Dustin [wins]."
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