UFC

White planning to let Khabib 'emotionally heal' after shock retirement

By Sports Desk October 24, 2020

Dana White felt lucky to see Khabib Nurmagomedov's final fight and will now give the retiring champion the time to "emotionally heal" before discussing the future.

Khabib beat Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 to unify the lightweight division, yet then revealed he had entered the Octagon for the final time.

The Russian, who lost his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov to coronavirus complications, said he had promised his mother this would be his last bout.

UFC president White's post-event news conference prompted questions of whether he believed Khabib's claims.

White was not looking to place any pressure on the fighter, though, and also revealed "one of the toughest human beings on the planet" had been carrying a secret injury.

"What this guy's been through, we're all lucky that we got to see him fight tonight," White said.

"I'm hearing rumours of other things that I didn't hear about. Apparently he was in the hospital. He broke his foot three weeks ago.

"He has two broken toes and a bone in his foot that was broken – something like that – that's what his corner was telling me.

"He is one of the toughest human beings on the planet.

"He is the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Seriously you have to start putting him up with GOAT status with whoever else you think is the GOAT.

"When guys want to fight, they want to fight. When guys don't want to fight, they don't want to fight.

"Let him take some time off, let him heal – not physically but emotionally heal from what he's going through with losing his father.

"As I said, we're all lucky we got to see him tonight."

White was blown away by Khabib's punishing performance, particularly after he struggled to make weight and appeared to be overcome with emotion before, during and after the event.

"It almost smelt like an upset tonight, the way he reacted at the weigh-in, the way he acted when he was walking out tonight," White said.

"He didn't look like himself, breathing heavy and taking deep breaths, but wow."

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  • McGregor hopes for Khabib rematch but predicts Russian will be stripped of UFC title McGregor hopes for Khabib rematch but predicts Russian will be stripped of UFC title

    Conor McGregor is still hopeful Khabib Nurmagomedov can be tempted back to the Octagon but says he should be stripped of the UFC lightweight title if he refuses to return.

    Nurmagomedov called time on his career after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October but is in Abu Dhabi to attend the lightweight fight between McGregor and Dustin Poirier on Saturday.

    Dana White met with the Russian, who he said was looking for "something spectacular" if he was to go back on his decision to hang up his gloves.

    However, Nurmagomedov subsequently said fighting was not in his plans as he did not want to disappoint his mother, to whom he promised Gaethje would be his last opponent due to the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap.

    Asked about those remarks at a news conference to preview UFC 257, White responded: "I've told you guys. We'll see what happens this week."

    McGregor, who was submitted by Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in a fight that was overshadowed by a post-bout melee outside the Octagon, added "we'll get him", before claiming that the lightweight title will soon be up for grabs.

    "I'd make the case if that man [Nurmagomedov] is continuing to dodge this and dodge the commitment of competing again, the title should be stripped and we should be engaging in a title fight," said McGregor.

    "I'm sure it'll happen after this bout. I'm interested to hear what the excuses are … but I predict a title strip.

    "As long as we fight again there'll be no issue [between us], that's it. If he continues to run, I'm not sure. We'll see what happens.

    "The world knows this fight is not over, this war is not over. The sport needs it to happen. I'm not gonna chase it if he doesn't want it and I'll keep my calm and move on."

    The fight with Poirier will be just McGregor's third at lightweight, having returned from a second retirement at welterweight when he took on Donald Cerrone in January last year.

    The former featherweight and lightweight champion claimed to have retired again, finding it difficult to fulfil his three-fight plan for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he is now anticipating a long run at 155 pounds.

    "I have not had that many fights at 155 in the UFC and I'm eager to put in a stint, to get a run going like I did with the featherweights," said McGregor.

    "I think I went seven or eight fights within a year and a half. That's what I'm looking for here if they can match me up. This is the best I've ever been for sure, and I'm at 155 pounds. But if I go back to 170 you best believe that'll be the best I've ever felt also."

    Poirier's camp suggested McGregor's weakness is his conditioning, but the Irishman does not agree with that assessment.

    "I think it's a myth. Obviously the first [Nate] Diaz fight I went from featherweight and a month or so later I was at welterweight, that's obviously gonna have an impact and then there were other issues," he said.

    "Overall, I think it's a myth. It's a myth that's out there and I hope we can answer it. I will answer it in time at some stage. I keep showing up here, someone's gonna be able to stay in there and fight with me. I hope it's this Saturday night. Do I think so? I do not. I'm in some shape here and I'm coming to put on a masterpiece."

    McGregor added: "I have a million shots. I have so many weapons in my arsenal and they're all fine-tuned at this time. I'm in a phenomenal place and I look forward to going out and showcasing, painting a beautiful picture."

  • Khabib considering UFC return but GSP not an option Khabib considering UFC return but GSP not an option

    Khabib Nurmagomedov could be tempted to make a comeback if a lightweight rival impresses him at UFC 257, Dana White has revealed. 

    The undefeated Khabib announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight division at UFC 254 last year, his first outing since the death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

    However, White raised the prospect that the Russian may return for one more bout - if he likes what he sees out of a potential opponent next week. 

    That includes former foes Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, who meet in the main event on Fight Island. Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler do battle on the same bill, with the winner potentially coming under consideration. 

    Charles Oliveira is also an option, having apparently grabbed Khabib's attention during his victory over Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 in December. 

    "The thing with him is, when you make the decision to retire, I knew he made the decision under unbelievable emotional stress," White told the media after Max Holloway's victory over Calvin Kattar in Abu Dhabi. 

    "His dad had died, he got hurt during that camp and couldn't train right, couldn't cut weight right. All the things he went through and then he went out and performed how he performed, then made that decision that night.  

    "Listen, you're not tying anything up. Go home, spend some time with your family. Heal up, think about it. 

    "Then he and I got together, and he said: 'I want to see if somebody really blows me away and impresses me next week'. 

    "You've got the co-main event and the main event, while Oliveira looked awesome against Tony Ferguson - that's an interesting fight for him. 

    "We will see what these guys do this weekend. I think it's fun - do you guys not want to see Khabib fight again? Hopefully, he sticks around and does one more." 

    However, White made clear that Georges St-Pierre is not on the shortlist of potential opponents. 

    "No, GSP never came up. He's not interested in that fight and, from what I hear today, neither is GSP. That's over," he said.

  • UFC president White pressing Khabib for one more fight UFC president White pressing Khabib for one more fight

    UFC president Dana White said he is meeting with Khabib Nurmagomedov as he presses the retired star for one more fight.

    Khabib stunningly announced his retirement from the octagon after beating Justin Gaethje to defend the lightweight title at UFC 254 in October as he improved to 29-0, though the 32-year-old remains the champion.

    White has retained hope of Khabib returning to the UFC, previously talking up the Russian trying to reach a flawless 30-0 record.

    As Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier prepare to clash at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi on January 23, White told ESPN: "I'm obviously meeting with him [Khabib] because I think that he should fight again.

    "Look at what he did to Justin Gaethje. Look at what he's done to every opponent he has faced.

    "I think he should fight again and I'm going to press him as hard as I can for one more."

    White added: "As a promoter, you always want to see the best guys in the world, but at the same time, when a guy wants to retire, he probably should.

    "The difference with a guy like Khabib is he's been through so much, and losing his dad was a major blow to him. Yet, his dad wanted him to hit 30-0.

    "No matter what you think of Conor personally, Conor McGregor is not only one of the best in the world, but one of the best to ever do it. And right now, he's as focused as he's ever been.

    "I don't know if this is going to be the same Conor after the Poirier fight, but if this Conor sticks around for the next year, how do you not do Khabib vs. Conor again?"

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