UFC Lightweight Champion, or should I say former UFC Lightweight Champion shocked the MMA world last Saturday evening at UFC 254. It wasn’t the win against what many felt would be the toughest test of his career in Justin Gaethje, Nurmagomedov, after all, was a -360 favorite heading into the fight. However, after dispatching Gaethje in round 2, which was a quicker ending than many expected, he removed, and then laid his gloves in the octagon and announced his retirement from the sport.
Citing that he didn’t want to fight again without his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in his corner, (The elder Nurmagomedov passed away earlier this year from complications brought on by COVID-19), and stating that he made a promise to his mother that UFC 254 would be his last fight, and he said that is a promise he could not break, the champion walked away on his own terms. He comprised a 29-0 record and walked away as the undefeated, undisputed champion of the UFC’s Lightweight division, which has always been known as one of, if not the most competitive division in the promotion’s history.
So here we are less than a week removed from all of this, and yesterday UFC President Dana White speaking to CBS radio tells the world that he and Nurmagomedov have been talking and that he (White) feels that Nurmagomedov may not be done just yet. Telling the reporter that Khabib’s father wanted him to finish his career at 30-0, and feels that Khabib may just honor that wish.
My guess is that White may have dangled a fight with former Welterweight and Middleweight champion Georges St. Pierre in front of Nurmagomedov, which is a tactic that tugs at the already emotional Nurmagomedov, and from where I am sitting isn’t right. We all know how much Abdulmanap meant to Khabib, and he always wanted to please his father, and getting to 30-0 would please him, as it would be fulfilling his father’s vision. The world also knows that Nurmagomedov has coveted a fight with the legendary GSP, so White may have baited the hook to see if he could get a nibble. GSP also stated that he would consider the fight because it is a legacy fight for him, and he respects Nurmagomedov tremendously.
My question is if all of that happened, should it have?
A devout Muslim, Nurmagomedov believes in the family over everything. He says what he means, and he means what he says. His word is his bond and breaking that especially to the matriarch of his family would be something that Nurmagomedov, in my opinion, would never do! So if he said he is retired, then he is retired, and everyone should accept that and let him move on with his life. Like most of the MMA community, I would love to see Khabib fight again, he is one of the best to ever do it, and at his age, there is so much more he could accomplish should he choose to un-retire.
To be fair, all the conversations between White and Nurmagomedov since UFC 254 could have been initiated by the champ himself, and White may just be a participant rather than the provoker. Nurmagomedov may just be having second thoughts about his decision that surprised even those closest to him including his coaches and his corners on fight night. If that is the case, then so be it, he has the right to change his mind, although I still feel he wouldn’t because he would then be breaking a promise he made to his mother, and I don’t think he could deal with that emotionally.
Over the years when a fighter announced their retirement, White has always taken the stance of, it’s their choice, and if a fighter is talking about retiring, then they should retire because you can’t be half in and half out, this sport requires and demands 100% commitment, a stance that I have always respected from the UFC President. Yet somehow it feels different when it comes to Nurmagomedov. I don’t think White like everyone else wants him to go.
Will he or won’t he, that will be the lingering question for quite some time as the Lightweight division will now begin the process of crowning a new champion. If Nurmagomedov comes back on his own, that should be strictly a choice made by him and his family, most importantly his mother. Other than that nobody should try to influence his decision. Let him walk away and live life the way he chooses.
He spoke with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this past Sunday and said ” You know why I want to be free because I am an eagle. I want to fly, fly. When my time comes I’m going to die, but before my time comes I want to fly I want to be free, I want to do whatever I want. I want to spend time with my family, my friends, my people. I want to live in my village.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov, 29-0, undisputed champion, thank you for the entertainment, now fly eagle fly!
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.