Four months on from Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement at UFC 254 in October, the UFC lightweight title picture is no clearer.
Still the UFC lightweight champion despite his announcement following that victory over Justin Gaethje, UFC President Dana White hopes to tempt Nurmagomedov back to the Octagon with at least one more fight.
The Dagestan native has stated that he isn’t looking to fight anytime soon, though he is due to have another meeting with White in the coming weeks to discuss his future.
That rendezvous could determine Nurmagomedov’s status as champion, but the unbeaten lightweight said he believes Dustin Poirier is the man who deserves the UFC’s 155-pound gold if he is not competing.
“[Dustin] Poirier deserves to be champion, that’s my personal opinion,” Nurmagomedov said in an interview with Russian outlet Match TV [H/T via RT Sport]. “Look at who he’s fought. Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway. He’s fought me, Conor [McGregor]. These are all top fighters, maybe fighters who will end up in the UFC Hall of Fame. I think intrigue will appear in the lightweight division as soon as they decide the title fight and eliminator.
“At the moment, it’s held up and not clear what Dana’s thinking. I think it’s going to be on fire in the lightweight division this summer. The lightweight division has always been the most competitive, the most interesting, with big stars. It will take new turns this summer. A new, younger, generation is already coming, plus there’s [Michael] Chandler, [Charles] Oliviera, Poirier, Gaethje, a lot of good fighters. With that mix, it will be interesting this summer and towards the end of the year.”
Poirier is coming off a comprehensive victory over Conor McGregor at UFC 258 in what was arguably the biggest win of his career. To many, Poirier is the champion in waiting if Nurmagomedov does hang up his four-ounce gloves for good.
However, “The Eagle” said that White had told him he won’t give up on bringing him back to the Octagon easily.
“Dana told me he isn’t done yet. I can say that,” Nurmagomedov said. “When I told him the lightweight division needs to move on, he told me he isn’t done. He said to me, ‘When you fly to Vegas at the end of February, we’ll sit down and talk.’ Dana needs to make some kind of decision. But whatever the decision, I’ll agree with it.
“It’s not a secret. I just told him how I’d like things to develop, not only related to me but the lightweight division in general,” he added. “I told him I don’t want the division to be held up. But, on the other hand, fighters have only just been in action, and people already understand in general who we’ll see fighting for the title. I know they’re already making plans, I think for around May or June, for a title fight. But between who?”