Walking back retirement never crossed Khabib Nurmagomedov’s mind.
The former UFC lightweight champion did not contemplate a return to MMA competition following his retirement announcement at UFC 254 in October 2020 in Abu Dhabi. Nurmagomedov told the world following his third title defense over Justin Gaethje that he was hanging up the gloves for good since he had promised his mother he wouldn’t continue fighting following the death of his father and coach, Abdulmanap, months prior due to complications from COVID-19.
Yet, the UFC didn’t officially recognize Nurmagomedov’s retirement until March – five months after the decision was made public.
UFC president Dana White told the media for months that there was a chance Nurmagomedov would return and he set up multiple meetings with Nurmagomedov in hopes to convince him to comeback.
But despite the efforts to get Nurmagomedov back in the cage, the Dagestani was settled on retirement and never thought of a comeback.
“(I never contemplated a return after retiring). Dana called this official, but I retired like four, six months ago,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “It’s very funny: Dana told me when he posted that someone commented saying, ‘Hey, he retired not today, he retired about five months ago,’ and I was like it’s funny. We had some conversations with Dana a couple of times and like two days ago we meet with him to talk like two real men. We had a very good conversation with them, good dinner, and I really appreciated him not only for me, but all the sport.”
It’s an unusual retirement since Nurmagomedov was in his prime and was coming off arguably the best performance of his career against Gaethje. The 32-year-old was also at the height of his star power and earning potential being one of the most recognized names in combat sports.
“It’s very hard when you have power, when you’re the best in the world, when you’re famous, have money and say to everything like this, ‘No,’” Nurmagomedov said. “It’s very hard. People maybe will never understand me, but I really hope they’re going to support my decision because everyone has their views.
“My view and my relationship with my mother, I feel like I have to stop because I feel like in every fight, every training camp, this takes some age away from my mother. And it’s like what do I have to do? I came to this sport to show who I am and became the best, I’m world champion, and pound-for-pound No. 1. I defended my title three times. I defended my title in biggest fight of UFC history. What else? Only money-fights, but I don’t need money.”
As for what’s next, it’s simple. Nurmagomedov is simply going to enjoy life and help groom the next generation of fighters who are working to become champions in the UFC.
“I have some business projects, I’m going to enjoy with my wife, I have kids, and I have my brothers – they’re still fighting in the UFC, so I’m going to support them.”