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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

UFC Fight Island: Khabib Nurmagomedov 'not interested' in GSP fight, says Dana White

Undefeated Russian said he could be tempted to reverse retirement decision if rivals pull off 'something spectacular' at UFC 257

Khabib Nurmagomedov may have a keen eye on five potential comeback opponents, but Georges St Pierre is not one of them, according to UFC president Dana White.

The current lightweight champion, who called time on his career in October, is said to be intent on watching next week’s UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi with particular interest, and should “something spectacular” happen there he might rescind his decision to retire.

Nurmagomedov, 32, made the shock announcement that he was stepping away at UFC 254, immediately after defeating Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi to retain his title and move to 29-0. The Dagestan native, whose father died in July, said he had promised his mother he would not compete again.

However, White met with Nurmagomedov at Friday’s UAE Warriors 15, and then on Sunday morning discussed his future with media following UFC Fight Night at Etihad Arena – the opening of three events on this latest Fight Island series.

White said Nurmagomedov was looking to run the rule over former rivals Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in the main event at UFC 257, and also the co-main event between debutant Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker. He was apparently impressed, too, with Charles Oliveira’s dominant victory against Tony Ferguson last month.

However, the “legacy fight” with former welterweight and middleweight champion St Pierre seems to no longer be an option.

“Nope,” White said. “GSP never came up. [Nurmagomedov] isn’t interested in that fight. From what I hear today, after that, neither is GSP. So, that’s over. We’ll see what the guys will do next weekend.”

White said Nurmagomedov would remain in Abu Dhabi to corner his cousin Umar Nurmagomedov during Wednesday’s second Fight Night, before leaving for the United States. The pair will meet again there, where White expects to get a definitive answer.

“He’s cornering on Wednesday and then he leaves and goes to [Las] Vegas,” White said. “Those fights will have played out.

“He and I are going to hook up and go to dinner in Vegas and talk again. We’ll make a decision. The one thing he did say is, ‘I won’t hold up the division. If I decide I don’t want to fight any of these guys, whoever’s next is next’.”

Asked if a rematch with McGregor represented the ideal match-up should Nurmagomedov choose to come back, White said: “I don’t know. He knows what he’s going to be looking for. Listen, Conor said he’s going to blow everyone’s mind [at UFC 257] so if that’s true and he does that in spectacular fashion ... because we all know Poirier is not the same guy he fought the first time.

“You can say whatever you want, Conor McGregor versus Khabib the rematch is a massive fight. If Conor should win in spectacular fashion, it would even be hard to say he doesn’t deserve the shot."

Meanwhile, White said Saturday’s Fight Island “Triple Header” opener, which debuted on network television in the US, couldn’t have “played out any better”.

Close to 2,000 fans were allowed to attend – the first time the UFC staged a live event with spectators since March.

“The fans were awesome,” White said. “We talked about this leading up to this, people asked me, ‘What you think about the fans’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, ask me after’.

“I can’t wait to have the fans back. They were awesome tonight, they had so much energy, and it sounded like there were more than 2,000 people.”

However, White maintained that he still wouldn’t go back to live events outside of Abu Dhabi unless full arenas were guaranteed.

“Because let me tell you, you’re not going to go everywhere and get 2,000 fans in a big arena like this and have it sound like that,” he said. “This crew here tonight was amazing. I don’t know where these guys were, if they were from Abu Dhabi or other places, but I look forward to seeing them on Wednesday and Saturday.”

Updated: January 17, 2021 05:42 PM

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