Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. Or is he?
Maybe that's what we will finally find out after Khabib meets with UFC president Dana White.
Oct. 24 – Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Justin Gaethje at UFC 254
Oct. 24 – Khabib retires following UFC 254 victory
Nov. 14 – Khabib reveals 47th drug test since 2015
Nov. 24 – Khabib posts about upcoming meeting with Dana White
Khabib's retirement announcement
Khabib surprised everyone, even longtime coach Javier Mendez, when he announced his retirement following his second-round submission of Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 main event on Oct. 24 on UFC Fight Island.
Prior to that fight, White said he has something special in the works for Khabib, should he emerge victorious. He did win, notching his 29th consecutive victory in a career that has seen no defeats, but then called it quits before White could reveal his plan for the lightweight champion.
“Today I want to say, this was my last fight. No way I can come here without my father,” Khabib said after putting Gaethje to sleep. “I promised (my mother) this would be my last fight.”
Any fight is loaded with adrenalin and emotions following a fight, but even more so for Khabib at UFC 254. His father, Abdulmanap, passed away in July following heart surgery, which had been complicated by him contracting COVID-19. The fight with Gaethje was the first time Khabib had to prepare without his father by his side.
The promise he made to his mother weighed heavily on Khabib, who has long been extremely dedicated to his family, constantly putting his respect for his parents above nearly everything else.
What could steer Khabib away from retirement?
Before his father's passing, Khabib and Abdulmanap had targeted 30 career victories as a potential landmark to trigger his retirement. That could also be something that weighs heavily on him.
Though Khabib announced his retirement following UFC 254, he has remained in the USADA drug testing pool. He posted to Instagram on Nov. 14, mentioning that he had just undergone his 47th drug test since 2015. That means he is eligible to return to the Octagon at any time without restriction.
White has also insisted that he doesn't believe that Khabib is done fighting yet. Though he respected Khabib's announcement at UFC 254, White said that his feeling was that Khabib would want to honor his father by notching a 30th victory.
White has not made a move to declare an interim champion or made any comment on plans for a UFC lightweight title fight should Khabib's retirement become permanent. He has instead said that he was going to give Khabib some time to mull it over.
"I’m giving Khabib some time to think this over. And he and I are going to get together and meet soon. So we’ll talk," White said at the UFC 255 press conference.
He even went so far in a recent interview with TMZ sports to say that if Khabib is to fight again, one of four fighters that have bouts scheduled would be the next challenger.
"One of those guys will definitely be in for the (Khabib) fight," White said of Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, who will headline UFC 257 in January, and Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira, who are salted to fight on Dec. 12 at UFC 256.
It's still unclear whether or not Khabib is even considering a return. He had commented in a recent Russian news report that he had no further competitive interests, but Khabib's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, refuted those reports as "fake news."
Then, on Tuesday, Khabib posted a photo of him alongside White to his Instagram with a caption that read, "See you soon Dana White."
That, of course, is far from any sort of commitment to a return. It could mean nearly anything. It appears, however, that a time for clarity is likely coming soon.
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