Dana White says he will give Khabib Nurmagomedov time to decide if he wants to stay retired, although he has a “good feeling” the lightweight champion will return to the UFC, while he said also that Conor McGregor’s comeback against Dustin Poirier is signed off.
The undefeated Nurmagomedov, 32, made the shock announcement that he was stepping away from the sport immediately following his title defence last week against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi – the concluding event on "Return to Fight Island".
Competing for the first time since his father's death in July, the Dagestan native moved to 29-0 and had been expected to then aim for 30-0 – as his father had wished.
However, an emotional Nurmagomedov, who overcame a series of setbacks in preparation for UFC 254, said he had promised his mother that Gaethje would be his final fight.
Then, last week, White told CBC Sports that he had spoken to Nurmagomedov and suspected he would be back for one more bout. On Sunday, following the UFC’s latest Fight Night in Las Vegas, the promotion’s president was asked by reporters about that conversation with Nurmagomedov.
“He didn’t say that he’ll fight or whatever, but he didn’t say no,” White said. “He’s considering the 30 and O; his father wanted it. And I think he was super emotional [at UFC 254], had the mumps, measles or whatever, a broken toe, trained on a stationary bike for that fight and then came in and fought.
“He’s still the champ. There’s no vacant title open right now or no interim title happening. He’s the champ and we’ll give him some time to figure out what he wants to do.”
Asked if he was confident Nurmagomedov would return, White said: “I feel pretty good. He said he was going to talk with his mother.”
McGregor v Poirier 'done'
White also gave an update on McGregor-Poirier, which is slated for January 23 and set to take place at . A venue for the clash has yet to be confirmed, though.
“The fight’s done,” White said. “I think so. As far as I know, it’s done.”
White had news too on Israel Adesanya’s future, with the middleweight champion to move up to light heavyweight to take on current belt-holder Jan Blachowicz.
Adesanya, who defended his title in superb fashion against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 in Abu Dhabi on September 27, was seemingly set for a rematch with Robert Whittaker. The former champion, the division's No 1-ranked contender, defeated No 3 Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision at UFC 254.
However, White said: “Listen, when the fight was over on Fight Island, the last fight, I was like I’m going to have to sit down with this kid and convince him on why he needs to fight Whittaker. Whittaker comes out and says he doesn’t want to fight him. Craziest [stuff] I’ve ever seen.
“So there’s no arguing with Israel now. I thought Whittaker deserved the shot and Whittaker doesn’t want it, so we’ll let him do it.”
Blachowicz was crowned the new light heavyweight champion at UFC 253, when he defeated Dominick Reyes by second-round TKO in a battle for the vacant belt. White said there is no timeline or location yet for Adesanya-Blachowicz.