Dana White Says Khabib’s UFC Return ‘Doesn’t Sound Very Positive’ After UFC 257
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Mahmoud Khaled/Associated Press

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following a second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje last October.

However, UFC President Dana White offered a glimmer of hope for a return during a conversation with UFC commentator Jon Anik on Jan. 16:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

“Show me something spectacular and make me want to come back and fight.”

@danawhite explained to @Jon_Anik what @TeamKhabib told him during their meeting, addressing the lightweights fighting at #UFC257 https://t.co/oFr4TmCNI3

That cracked door may be slammed shut after White’s latest comments following UFC 257, which featured No. 2 lightweight contender Dustin Poirier TKO’ing No. 4 contender Conor McGregor in Round 2.

“I did talk to Khabib,” White said after the fight, per ESPN’s Marc Raimondi.

“And he said to me, ‘Dana be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys, I beat these guys.’ I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound very positive. We’ll see.”

Nurmagomedov has beaten Poirier, McGregor and Gaethje, who is still listed as the No. 1 contender.

A potentially intriguing matchup could occur between Nurmagomedov and the No. 3 lightweight contender in Charles Oliveira, who beat No. 5 Tony Ferguson via unanimous decision last December. Oliveira has won eight straight fights.

However, Nurmagomedov has proved to be a cut above the rest of the lightweight division, which is more so a commentary on him being the sport’s best pound-for-pound men’s fighter rather than analysis on the level of competition, which is still fierce.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani speculated on what’s next for the lightweight division if Nurmagomedov stays out of the Octagon, with Saturday’s big winner prominently involved:

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Poirier’s next fight has to be for the title, either vacant or interim. If Nurmagomedov is really done, you gotta do Poirier vs. Oliveira or Poirier vs. Chandler for the undisputed title.

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Then the next one should be for the undisputed belt. Gotta move on, especially since he reiterated he doesn’t want to hold up the division. https://t.co/XlJtdu5ZqI

If Nurmagomedov stays retired, he will have finished his professional career with 29 wins, eight by way of knockout and 11 via submission. For now, he is still the lightweight champion, as the belt has not been vacated yet.

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