This post originally appeared on RT Sport News
The unexpected retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov may have robbed fight fans of a monumental showdown between the undefeated Russian and Kamaru Usman, who took another step towards welterweight GOAT status at UFC 261.
Usman has now won 14 straight fights in the talent-rich welterweight fold, one more than Nurmagomedov claimed in his entire UFC career – and after ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ enhanced his glowing reputation even further with his second round knockout of Jorge Masvidal in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday night, some fans have been left wondering what might have transpired had Khabib not pursued his retirement papers.
Nurmagomedov first announced that he was stepping away from the cage following last year’s title defence against Justin Gaethje, and resisted Dana White’s unceasing campaign designed to tempt the then-UFC lightweight champion to reverse his decision.
A glimmer of hope for White, as well as Nurmagomedov’s extended fanbase, came when rumors once again raised their head of a potential fight with fellow UFC icon Georges St-Pierre – but those now appear dead in the water.
However, with Usman now confirmed to be the greatest welterweight fighter in the sport – and GSP’s true successor at 170lbs – some fans have been left wondering what might have been.
Makes me laugh the way @TeamKhabib has been retired for 6+ months, but still trends when the UFC is on. Remember that Usman once said: “I would never fight Khabib, that’s my brother. It’s just a mutual respect”Let Khabib be and just enjoy the new P4P king! pic.twitter.com/swUkFkZX4u
— AJ (@aj_jsj19) April 25, 2021
Usman clearly the best in the world right now while Khabib is the undisputed GOAT. Shame that fight won’t happen
— Filipe Orlando (@MrFilipeOrlando) April 25, 2021
Usman says he’s the best P4P fighter on the planet.With Khabib retired, I think you can make a very, very strong case for that argument.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 25, 2021
“Makes me laugh the way [Khabib] has been retired for 6+ months, but still trends when the UFC is on,” wrote one fan on social media. “Remember that Usman once said: ‘I would never fight Khabib, that’s my brother. It’s just a mutual respect’. Let Khabib be and just enjoy the new P4P king!
“Usman clearly the best in the world right now while Khabib is the undisputed GOAT. Shame that fight won’t happen,” added another.
ESPN’s UFC insider Ariel Helwani also co-signed Usman’s claims that he is the greatest pound-for-pound (active) fighter on the planet.
“Usman says he’s the best P4P fighter on the planet,” wrote Helwani. “With Khabib retired, I think you can make a very, very strong case for that argument.”
While Nurmagomedov’s retirement appears set in stone, he had long signalled an interest in challenging himself against St-Pierre – the greatest fighter in welterweight history.
However, with Usman now occupying the role of the clear, standout 170lbs competitor in the world one wonders if Khabib may have been a little premature the declaration central to his retirement: there were no challenges left which truly interested him.
Both Usman and Khabib are managed by Dominance MMA head Ali Abdelaziz too – the man who was central to arranging a fight between Khabib and another of his clients, Gaethje, last year.
And one wonders if this might be enough evidence for White to restart his campaign of persuasion.