Following a scheduled meeting on Friday between Nurmagomedov and White in Abu Dhabi, White announced on Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 7 broadcast on ABC that the reigning lightweight champion could be open to competing again depending on how the contenders at UFC 257—Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Dan Hooker, and Michael Chandler—perform next weekend. Top contender Charles Oliveira was also mentioned as having caught Nurmagomedov’s eye.
“He’s accomplished everything he set out to accomplish,” White said he was told by Nurmagomedov. “He thought that Oliveira looked really good in his fight against Tony Ferguson. Next Saturday, we have the McGregor-Poirier fight and Chandler and Hooker on there.
“His words to me were, ‘I’m gonna watch this fight.’ He said, ‘I would never tie up the division, hold the belt, keep the belt away from anybody else. These guys do something spectacular, show me something spectacular, and make me want to come back and fight.’ So I have a feeling that if somebody delivers, it could be on the co-main event or the main event and like I said he thought Oliveira looked good. Two fights coming up, if these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them.”
The UFC 257 pay-per-view will be headlined by a rematch between Poirier and McGregor, while Hooker takes on the debuting Chandler, a three-time Bellator lightweight champion.
Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in October, following a second-round submission of Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254. The win gave Nurmagomedov his third consecutive defense of his UFC title and improved his pro record to 29-0. Immediately after, he said that he had made a promise to his mother that UFC 254 would mark his last fight. The decision also came three months after the death of Nurmagomedov’s father and lifelong coach, Abdulmanap.
For months, Nurmagomedov and White have both publicly addressed the fighter’s future, with Nurmagomedov insisting that he will no longer be an active competitor and that the UFC lightweight division can move on without him, and White claiming that there’s still a chance he can convince Nurmagomedov to fight again.
White believes that the time off may have softened Nurmagomedov’s stance on retirement.
“He’s the best in the world right now,” White said. “His best performance was against Gaethje with all that stuff going on. He just needed time to clear his head and if these guys do what I think they’re gonna do next weekend, it sounds like he might be interested in fighting one of them.”
Nurmagomedov has become one of the UFC’s most popular fighters, winning a vacant lightweight title at UFC 223 and then later defending against McGregor in a grudge match at UFC 229 that reportedly sold 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, a UFC record.
So far in his career he has compiled an unblemished record in 29 fights, including a 13-0 mark in the UFC. His notable wins include Gaethje, McGregor, Poirier, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, and Rafael dos Anjos, among others.