The combat sports world was rocked last weekend when UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from mixed martial arts following his dominant second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje.
In his post-fight interview at UFC 254, an emotional Nurmagomedov vowed to not fight again after promising to his mother that he would stop competing following the tragic passing of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov – his father, coach, and mentor – who died due to complications from COVID-19 in July.
It was thought that “The Eagle” hadn’t informed any of the UFC hierarchy about his decision, while some of his coaches and teammates were also unaware of Nurmagomedov’s stance on retirement.
Dana told The Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio that he and @TeamKhabib have been talking & he expects Khabib to return & go for 30-0.
— Zach Gelb (@ZachGelb) October 29, 2020
That was confirmed by UFC President Dana White, who described his thoughts as he heard the 32-year-old announce his exit from the sport to CBS Sports’ Zach Gelb.
“I was sitting there going: ‘Oh my god, you gotta be kidding me,’” White said to Gelb. “But I’ll tell you this, and I haven’t told anybody this yet… Khabib and I have been talking. And, you know, he was completely emotional that night, you know, when he got through that fight.”
While Nurmagomedov is very much a man of his word, White sees the Dagestan native returning to the Octagon to at least fulfil he and his father’s aim to reaching 30 fights unbeaten before hanging up the gloves for good.
“I have a feeling that he might go for 30-0,” White revealed. “I do [believe Nurmagomedov will return]. I think that he’s not gonna retire. You know, his dad wanted him to get to 30-0, and I think he wants to honour his dad’s wish.”
MMA and retirements seem to mix like oil and water. Though from the outside it looks like any hopes of Khabib returning to competition appears unlikely, White’s statement suggests everyone should watch this space.