When the UFC returns to Abu Dhabi in January, the promotion will feature a trio of consecutive cards capped off by the return of Conor McGregor as he faces Dustin Poirier in a highly anticipated rematch at UFC 257 on Jan. 23.
While the fights that week will get the most attention, behind the scenes UFC President Dana White plans to sit down for a meeting with reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in order to make a pitch to him to return from retirement.
Nurmagomedov called it a career back in October after earning a second-round submission against Justin Gaethje while revealing that he promised his mother that he would retire after one more fight following the tragic loss of his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, earlier in the year. Just days later, White cast doubt on his retirement after revealing that it was Nurmagomedov’s father who wanted him to make it to 30-0 in his career and he’s still one more win away from achieving that goal.
With that meeting looming just a few weeks away, Nurmagomedov’s friend and teammate Daniel Cormier knows that the undefeated Russian won’t return to the UFC simply for another paycheck. That said, Cormier understands why White is doing his absolute best to bring Nurmagomedov back for at least one more fight.
“I think that when we look at these things and Dana as a promoter and the head of the UFC, that’s what he’s supposed to do,” Cormier told MMA Fighting. “He’s supposed to be hopeful that he gets another Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. Why wouldn’t he? I think that’s where we are today. I don’t know for certain that Khabib is going to fight. I don’t know if he’s not going to fight. I try to keep our relationship a friendship. I don’t want to always be talking to him about things about his career because he’s a star.
“But if you’re Dana White, I think he’s playing it the exact way he needs to and I don’t know where Khabib is personally. But if you ask me still, I know this guy is a man of his word so I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
Because money isn’t going to influence Nurmagomedov’s decision to fight again, the pitch from White will likely have to include a potential opponent that would add something to his legacy in order to make it to 30-0 in his career.
Considering Nurmagomedov has already defeated opponents such as Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, there aren’t many notable names left at the top of the lightweight division for him to vanquish.
When it’s all said and done, Cormier believes there’s actually only one name that would really satisfy Nurmagomedov’s desire to complete his legacy with another fight in the UFC.
“It would have to be Georges St-Pierre,” Cormier said. “I believe that a big fight is what he would want in order to just prove himself. Like you said, Khabib Nurmagomedov is just trying to make history and a win over Georges St-Pierre would do exactly that for him.
“When your resume becomes so big, not many things can add value to it. If he can go and [fight] GSP and beat GSP, that adds value.”
St-Pierre is also retired but he has stated numerous times that he would be willing to come back for another fight under a similar set of circumstances as Nurmagomedov.
When he called it a career, St-Pierre was already the longest reigning welterweight champion in UFC history while also capturing the middleweight title in the final fight of his career to date. If he was going to compete again, St-Pierre has targeted Nurmagomedov as an opponent that would do the most for his resume as he seeks to become the greatest fighter of all-time.
In terms of matchup, Cormier loves the stylistic clash, especially considering the way Nurmagomedov performed in his last fight against Gaethje where he showed off some of his striking skills before ultimately finishing with a submission on the ground.
“It’s a great fight,” Cormier said. “I think Georges has good takedown defense. I think Georges has good striking. The highest level striking we had seen for a long time. Georges was one of those guys that almost seemed to be ahead of the times. He almost ahead of the times. Like we were learning to strike or wrestle while Georges was able to do them both at the same time. That was very rare back then and that’s why he stood out so far above everybody else.
“If he fought Khabib, especially the Khabib that you saw against Justin Gaethje where people thought that he didn’t have in the standup, he was at a clear disadvantage. The way he fought in the standup, that tells you he’s got a guy in front of him that can do just about anything.”
Just making it to 29-0 is already an incredible accomplishment but if Nurmagomedov could cap off his career with a win over St-Pierre, he would undoubtedly put himself into position to be considered the greatest fighter of all time.
“He’s so talented,” Cormier said about Nurmagomedov. “I think when you start thinking about guys with pure talent you think about him and you think about [Jon] Jones. Those guys are just so naturally gifted. But I think it’s just that iron will to be successful and win that truly drives Khabib Nurmagomedov to be who he is.
“All those things are exactly true. I don’t know if we’ve seen many people to have the natural ability that Khabib has but also it doesn’t just take natural ability. It takes natural ability and an ability to train and prepare for those types of competitions.”