Even though the lightweight division saw its fair share of drama at UFC 257, American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez doesn’t think it was shaken up enough to pique the interest of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“The Eagle” retired in October after defending his title against Justin Gaethje, bringing his record to 29-0. Soon after, UFC President Dana White publicly campaigned for the lightweight champ to rethink his decision, culminating in a face-to-face meeting in Abu Dhabi this past weekend.
Following Dustin Poirier’s win over Conor McGregor and three-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler’s stunning debut against Dan Hooker, White spoke to Nurmagomedov again and admitted it was likely Nurmagomedov would stay retired.
White had long pushed the idea of a Nurmagomedov-McGregor rematch, a second helping of the fight that headlined UFC 229, the most successful pay-per-view in company history. But Mendez doesn’t think that fighting McGregor again was ever appealing to Nurmagomedov.
If anything, a superfight with fellow retiree Georges St-Pierre is the only option that makes sense to the undefeated champ.
“I didn’t even know if [Conor] was gonna do great that Khabib would even fight him, cause he’s gotta ask his mother’s permission first,” Mendez said in a recent interview with Submisison Radio (transcription via Denis Shkuratov). “You guys gotta remember, the key thing is that he has to ask his mother too for permission. I didn’t see GSP being offered, and I thought the only way he was gonna come out of it was if GSP was in that picture. But based on what happened, I don’t see why he would want to come out and fight anybody. Why? This fight with Dustin is not gonna motivate him. He’s not looking at the money aspect of it.
“But if they can put GSP on the table, maybe there’s a chance there. And I’m not saying it will happen, because I don’t know, but I’m just saying GSP might be the only one. I’ve always thought it was GSP, because that’s what his father wanted, and I think if they can get that one worked out and he can get his mother’s permission, I think that one could work. But I don’t think anybody else is gonna work. Period.”
“If he asked my opinion, I would say hold out for GSP or retire,” Mendez added. “That’s what I would tell him. But he’s never asked me, so that conversation never took place.”
Among the top contenders at 155 pounds, Nurmagomedov holds wins over Poirier, McGregor, and Gaethje among others. All three of those fighters lost by submission to Nurmagomedov.
Aside from producing massive box office numbers for the UFC, the Nurmagomedov-McGregor matchup was also arguably Nurmagomedov’s most competitive title defense, with “The Notorious” making it to the fourth round before being finished. But Mendez is doubling down on squashing talk of a rematch.
“You’re never gonna get that rematch,” Mendez said. “Just like you’re never going to get the Tony and Khabib fight. That’s never gonna happen either. It’s not gonna happen. I mean, Khabib doesn’t need it. He seems fulfilled. And like I said, I think the only juicy part for him is what his father wanted, GSP. I’ve said it many times.
“And who knows, even that might be out of the question now. Maybe GSP doesn’t want it, maybe Khabib don’t want it now. I don’t know, cause I never talked to Khabib about what he wants, I’ve always listened to him.”
St-Pierre, 39, has been open about his interest in the Nurmagomedov fight as well, though his own comeback talks haven’t advanced past the theoretical stage. In his 13-year UFC career, St-Pierre won and successfully defended the welterweight title nine consecutive times, and also captured a middleweight belt in what would turn out to be both his comeback and retirement fight at UFC 217.
Mendez doesn’t know if that fight or any fight will ever materialize for Nurmagomedov, but he can confirm that Nurmagomedov was staying sharp ahead of UFC 257 just in case. He joked that Nurmagomedov might still be feeling that itch to continue fighting.
“It was nothing closely remotely to a camp,” Mendez said. “He just [said] coach, ‘Let’s work pads.’ And I go, ‘Why?’ And he goes, ‘Just to work.’ And I go, ‘Bullsh*t, you might be thinking about it.’ And he goes, ‘No, no, I just want to train.’ I go, ‘Alright, whatever. I don’t care, I’ll train you anyways, it doesn’t matter.’ You know, he wants to fight, he doesn’t want to fight, I’ll train him whenever he wants.
“I felt he was interested in a potential match if it was the right one. I did feel that. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have asked for me to train him. But I think after the performance of what happened, I don’t think there’s any interest anymore, period. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think there is.”
Watch Mendez’s interview with Submission Radio here: