Five months after Khabib Nurmagomedov announced he was stepping away from the octagon, Dana White has finally recognized his UFC retirement in an emotional shared announcement – with a May clash set to decide the new champion.
UFC president White has admitted defeat after his latest meeting with former lightweight king Nurmagomedov, accepting the Russian’s shock retirement which he first declared after putting away Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October.
Nurmagomedov emotionally revealed in the octagon that he would be stepping away in order to honor a promise he had made to his mother, although he went out in fitting style with a stunning second-round triangle choke submission against the dangerous Gaethje.
Having lost his father, Abdulmanap, to complications arising from Covid-19 last summer, Nurmagomedov opted not to continue without his life-long coach by his side, ending a 29-0 career that saw him talked of as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time .
Still, this hadn’t deterred White from attempting to lure the American Kickboxing Academy star into one last dance, with everything from a superfight with Georges St-Pierre to a scrap with current welterweight ruler Kamaru Usman entertained.
Some five months later, however, with the lightweight division held up in the meantime, White has given up on his quest, taking to social media late on Thursday night to face facts alongside a photo of the pair together.
“29-0 it is,” accepted White. “He is 100 percent officially retired. It was incredible to watch you work. Thank you for everything and enjoy whatever is next, my friend.”
An hour later, Khabib shared the same snap on Instagram with his own message to his former boss and those responsible for his rise to the top.
“It was a good dinner with some great people. [Dana], thank you so much, brother, and the entire UFC team for the opportunity to prove myself. You guys have changed many lives forever because of this sport.
“Dana – I’ll never forget your attitude towards me, my father did not forget and my sons will remember you. Today there was a real conversation between real men.
“Thank you to all my team, sparring partners and all the fans. I hope you will accept my decision and understand me.”
In a fawning appraisal, Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, lauded his fighter’s career and called White “the godfather of MMA” and “big brother”.
“This is the best I have seen between Khabib and Dana,” he said of the meeting. “I have never seen a relationship like this between a fighter and promoter.
“They never argued, they never fought and never complained about each other. Nothing but pure class between the both of them.
“I am a little sad that my brother is leaving the sport, but the Eagle will always sore in the sky. The greatest fighter on the planet.”
Wasting no time, White then revealed to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira will face off for the now-vacant lightweight strap on at UFC 262 on May 15.
“Let’s go!” demanded the Brazilian on Twitter, while his Nashville native foe delivered his trademark exclamation of “see you at the top!”
Having previously trying and failing to convince Khabib to come out of retirement, former Bellator MMA champion Chandler has also talked down Oliveira’s prospects of dominating their weight class.
“The only question I would pose about Charles Oliveira is he’s not a large 155’er,” he told MMA Fighting.
“He’s not a very powerful guy. He’s not a very physically strong guy or overly athletically gifted guy.
“I like Charles Oliveira’s style in the fact that he trots forward, his striking has gotten better, he’s extremely slick with his jiu-jitsu.”
Still, riding an eight-fight winning streak that included Tony Ferguson’s scalp last time out, the São Paulo scrapper will fancy his chances.
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