Is Khabib Nurmagomedov staying retired?
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s recent retirement may have come as a shock to many of his fans and followers. Nurmagomdov has decided to step away from the sport after 29 straight victories and no losses. The decision came following the sudden loss of his father and head coach earlier this year. In his post-fight interview after the win over Justin Gaethje, Nurmagomedov spoke about not wanting to continue fighting without his father and said he promised his mother he would walk away. Since the announcement, UFC president Dana White has made claims that he believes Nurmagomedov may return after all.
“He didn’t say that he’ll fight whatever but he didn’t say no,” White said at the UFC Vegas 12 post-fight press conference. “He’s considering the 30-0. He’s still the champ. There’s no vacant title open right now or no interim title happening. He’s the champ and we’ll give him some time to figure out what he wants to do.”
Late Thursday, Nurmagomedov spoke to acting Head of Dagestan Sergei Melikov (video via RT Sport), about the struggles he went through leading up to his final bout against Gaethje and reiterating his desire to stay retired.
“This fight was like no other,” Khabib said. “The emotions in this fight were completely different. Everything was completely different without my father. I was offered the fight right after everything happened. I had the decision to accept it or turn it down, nobody knew about this, or retire, or I could come back, fight, and then retire. Now I tell the people close to me that aren’t happy with me retiring that even if I fought 10 more times, I’d still have to face that decision. This decision could come up when I’m 32, 34, 35. It’s a hard decision because I’ve been fighting all my life. I’ve been on the mats for as long as I remember. It’s difficult to leave and do something else. People can’t understand it, but what can you do?”
Prior to this last fight, Nurmagomedov admitted he was in contact with White about what he described as “big things,” although it is unclear if these things were fight talk or perhaps something else in the organization, it seems a moot point now. Nurmagomedov seems content to walk away from MMA at an impressive 29-0. Many times fighters will retire and then come back. We have seen that time and time again with Conor McGregor and even saw it with Georges St-Pierre. It could be Nurmagomeov who is the exception to this rule.
“I have many supporters in not just Dagestan but all of Russia and around the world,” Khabib said. “I have a responsibility to them, that responsibility worried me. I had serious injuries. I was hospitalized for five days in mid-September. Then I came back and broke my toe. Those words about overcoming yourself are true. If a person doesn’t break psychologically, it will be hard to break them physically because the mind breaks before bones. Everything that happened to me psychologically before this fight gave me the strength I can’t describe, inside and outside of the octagon.”
As White said, Nurmagomedov is still the champion for now and White has no reason to strip him at this point in time. There are still many top lightweights who could be duking it out to earn the position and the next to what the UFC lightweight strap. Conor McGregor is rumored to be facing Dustin Poirier early next year, that could be a possible title fight, although not announced yet. Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler, and Justin Gaethje among the other top contenders who could easily step in if needed.