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Dana White: Khabib Nurmagomedov remains UFC lightweight champion and best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport

Russian mixed martial artist Nurmagomedov arrives in Makhachkala after fight with Gaethje Photo by Press Office of the Head of the \TASS via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov remains the UFC lightweight champion despite announcing his retirement following a win over Justin Gaethje in October.

Just moments after the undefeated Dagestani submitted Gaethje to defend his title for the third time, he laid down his gloves in the octagon to confirm his fighting days are behind him. Nurmagomedov was competing for the first time since the tragic death of his father Abdulmanap earlier this year and he revealed that he made a promise to his mother that he would retire following the fight with Gaethje.

Days later, UFC president Dana White said that he had talked to Nurmagomedov in the wake of his announcement and felt confident that the reigning lightweight champion would return for at least one more fight. While nothing has been decided yet, White says he’s giving Nurmagomedov time to decide his future, which is why he will remain the lightweight champion with no plans to vacate the belt or hand out an interim title.

“He didn’t say that he’ll fight whatever but he didn’t say no,” White said when asked about Nurmagomedov at the UFC Vegas 12 post fight press conference. “He’s considering the 30-0. His father wanted it and I think that he was super emotional. Had the mumps or measles or whatever, broken toe, trained on a stationary bike for that fight and then came in and fought.. I think he was super emotional.

“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.”

While Nurmagomedov previously promised his mother that he wouldn’t fight again, White says he plans to speak with her in the coming days regarding his future.

“He said he was going to talk with his mother,” White revealed.

Beyond Nurmagomedov’s standing as the UFC lightweight champion, he also achieved another dream following his win over Gaethje and that was taking over the top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings.

During his UFC career, Nurmagomedov had never been ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound but that finally changed after he moved his record to 29-0 while only losing two rounds while competing inside the octagon.

Of course, Nurmagomedov’s ranking came at the expense of former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who has occupied that top spot for a huge part of the last decade.

Needless to say, Jones was none too pleased that Nurmagomedov was ranked ahead of him once the UFC released the new pound-for-pound rankings but White says that was absolutely the right move to make.

“He is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” White said about Nurmagomedov. “I mean just that performance with Gaethje on top of being undefeated and only maybe losing two rounds in his entire career, I would say he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.

“I’ve been telling you guys Jon Jones is the GOAT forever. He’s not the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now.”

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