UFC 257: Khabib Nurmagomedov 'doesn't sound very confident' about retirement U-turn, Dana White reveals

UFC president spoken to Russian lightweight champion immediately following Dustin Poirier's victory over Conor McGregor

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Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return to the octagon is looking less likely following UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, according to Dana White, the promotion’s president.

The lightweight champion, 32, retired in October immediately following his victory against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, which also took place in the UAE capital. However, speculation has continued that he would come back, mostly because White had been teasing it.

The UFC president met with Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi on January 15, on the eve of the latest Fight Island series, and later said that the unbeaten Dagestani would reconsider his decision should he see "something spectacular" from either of the two lightweight bouts at UFC 257.

The card at Etihad Arena was headlined by Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, with Poirier winning by second-round TKO. Meanwhile, Michael Chandler marked his UFC debut with an emphatic first-round TKO of Dan Hooker.

Yet White told the media after the event that he had already spoken to Nurmagomedov, and that his return “doesn’t sound very positive”. Nurmagomedov’s professional record stands at 29-0.

“He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys'," White said. "But it doesn’t sound very positive, so we’ll see. But what I said before - he won’t hold the division up.”

Nurmagomedov, who defeated McGregor in their money-spinning 2018 match-up, later took to social media, in an apparent jibe at his long-time rival.

The post read: "This is what happened when you change your team, leave your sparring partners who made you champion and sparring with little kids, far away from reality.”

Reacting to that in the post-fight press conference, McGregor said: “My team has been the team since Day 1. I have not changed anything. It is what it is. Respect the athletes.

"That’s the character of the man, for sure, behind the mask. Whatever, what’s he want to do? Does he want to come back or no? … If he wants to have his disrespectful comments, come back and let’s go again, my man. I’m here for it. That’s fighting talk.”

White said Poirier and Chandler would most probably meet next for the title, should Nurmagomedov remain retired. Poirier, a former interim lightweight champion, lost to Nurmagomedov in their unification clash in Abu Dhabi in September 2019.