UFC president Dana White is remaining coy about the future of Khabib Nurmagomedov after revealing the lightweight champion is not "convinced" about a return but insisted the pair are not "really talking about it yet".
White and UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov were both present at the UAE Warriors 15 event in Abu Dhabi on Friday night. The two men were then seen going into a private room after the show, where it was assumed Nurmagomedov's future would be the main topic of discussion.
When asked by Abu Dhabi Sports if he has been able to coax the Dagestan fighter back into the Octagon, White said: "We're not really talking about it yet. I don’t think he’s completely convinced but we're not talking about it right now."
Nurmagomedov, 32, announced his retirement from the UFC last October after beating interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.
The victory extended Nurmagomedov's unbeaten professional record to 29-0. It was the first time he had fought without the support of his father, Abdulmanap, who died of coronavirus-related complications in July. It also transpired soon after the fight that Nurmagomedov had fought with a broken foot.
“I think the last time we were here, when he retired, he was under tremendous amount of pressure and stress," White said.
“His father had just passed away. He was injured. He had just been through that whole thing. I hate to see guys make a decision that big on a night like that.”
White has stated he wants to see Nurmagomedov take on Conor McGregor in a rematch if the Irishman defeats Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi next week, although the champion himself has insisted he has no interest in the fight.
The third edition of UFC Fight Island kicks off on Saturday, headlined by the featherweight bout between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. That is followed by a second UFC Fight Night show on Wednesday, when welterweights Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny top the bill.
The stint concludes with UFC 257 headlined by the McGregor and Poirier re-match on Saturday, January 23.
'Abu Dhabi capital city of MMA'
Sitting cageside at UAE Warriors 15 on Friday night, at a show hosted to commemorate his father, Nurmagomedov praised the role Abu Dhabi has played in the development of MMA.
"It's a big honour to be here in Abu Dhabi," he said. "Now Abu Dhabi has become the capital city of MMA in the world.
“Last year and this year, we have seen the biggest MMA fights staged here and all the MMA staff in attendance.
“This is big things for one city. Tonight, we are watching some aspiring fighters at the UAE Warriors and I’m very excited to be involved and watching in this show.
“Thank you very much to Abdulmunam Al Hashemi [chairman of Palms Sports and UAE Warriors] for providing some of the young guys with the opportunity to compete on a big stage.”
UAE Warriors 15 in pictures
The highlight of the 15-fight card was the lightweight title bout between Brazilian Bruno Machado and Mickael Lebout of France, with the former winning a unanimous points decision.
Machado’s title defence perfect stretched his UAE Warriors record to four wins and his overall record to 15-9.
White was visiting the UAE Warriors event for the first time and watched almost the entire show.
“I wanted to come here [to watch the UAE Warriors] a couple of times but couldn’t make it because of the Covid,” he said.
“I’m blown away with the production guys of this show and those who are fighting here tonight. It is one of the best shows in the world.
“I found a couple of guys but I don’t want to mention their names, and our relationships with the UAE Warriors is on track from tonight.”