Khabib Nurmagomedov has sent fans into a frenzy of speculation over a possible comeback for the Russian, just one month after he announced his retirement from MMA.
Nurmagomedov retained his UFC lightweight title with a second-round submission victory against then-interim champion Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254 on 24 October, before using his post-fight interview to call time on his career.
‘The Eagle’ moved to 29-0 with his win over the American and to the top of the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, achieving a feat that the 32-year-old’s late father and head coach Abdulmanap had set out for him before dying from coronavirus-related complications in July.
“God give me everything, and with my father, I love you so much… It was my last fight,” Khabib said after submitting Gaethje. “No way I’m gonna come here [again] without my father. It was the first time [fighting] after what happened with my father.
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“When UFC called me about Justin, I talked with my mother for three days. She didn’t want me to go fight without father, but I promised her: ‘It’s gonna be my last fight.’ And if I I give my word, I have to follow this.”
But UFC president Dana White has since suggested that the Russian might not in fact be done fighting, and Nurmagomedov’s most recent Instagram post has led fans to believe that negotiations over a comeback could be taking place very soon.
Khabib, who is still listed as lightweight champion on the UFC’s website, shared a picture of himself and White with the caption: “See you soon @danawhite.”
Nurmagomedov has previously expressed an interest in fighting former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who retired as the consensus greatest of all time – though Khabib’s record and performance against Gathje strengthened the Russian’s claim to that status in many fans’ eyes.
Meanwhile, Nurmagomedov’s biggest rival, Conor McGregor – whom the Russian defeated via submission in October 2018 – is back in action in January, headlining UFC 247 in a rematch against Dustin Poirier.
McGregor knocked out Poirier in the first round when the pair met at featherweight in 2014, but their upcoming bout is set to take place at lightweight.
McGregor has held titles in both weight classes in the UFC – and previously in Cage Warriors. He was the first simultaneous dual-weight champion in UFC history.
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