Ever the promoter, Dana White ensured that he’d get even more eyes on the UFC’s first fight card of 2021 with the promise of a Khabib Nurmagomedov announcement on Saturday night.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dana White met with each other in Abu Dhabi on Friday, with the UFC President eager to persuade the undefeated Russian to return to the Octagon one last time.
Nurmagomedov, who announced his retirement after a successful title defence against Justin Gaethje last October, has remained silent on the outcome of the meeting but White saw the opportunity to create some hype.
— danawhite (@danawhite) January 16, 2021
White announced that he would provide fans with an update on Nurmagomedov’s fighting future at the beginning of the main card on Saturday and while it ended up being somewhat anti-climactic, the UFC boss did confirm that ‘The Eagle’ has left the door open for a return but he will need to be impressed.
With Nurmagomedov’s fierce rival Conor McGregor sharing the Octagon with Dustin Poirier next weekend and Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler serving as co-main event, Nurmagomedov will assess the state of the lightweight division after UFC 257.
“He’s accomplished everything he set out to accomplish,” White said on the UFC broadcast. “He thought that (Charles) Oliveira looked really good in his last fight against Tony Ferguson. Next Saturday, we have the McGregor vs. Poirier fight and Chandler vs. Hooker on there.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
“His words to me were, ‘I’m gonna watch this fight.’ He said, ‘I would never tie up the division, hold the belt or keep the belt away from anybody else. If these guys do something spectacular, show me something spectacular, and make me want to come back and fight.’
“So I have a feeling that if somebody delivers, it could be on the co-main event or the main event and like I said he thought Oliveira looked good. Two fights coming up, Oliveira looked great and if these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them.”
Nurmagomedov also cited Charles Oliveira’s recent dominant victory over Tony Ferguson as a potential reason to return while the long-time 155lbs champion will doubtless have been impressed by Max Holloway’s performance against Calvin Kattar in Saturday night’s main event. While the Holloway vs. Kattar headliner was at featherweight, ‘Blessed’ has competed at lightweight in the past.
“He’s the best in the world right now,” White said of Nurmagomedov. “His best performance was against Gaethje with all that stuff going on. He just needed some time to clear his head and if these guys do what I think they’re gonna do next weekend, it sounds like he might be interested in fighting one of them.”