Khabib puts his title and 28-0 record on the line against interim lightweight champion Gaetje at UFC 254 on October 24, but attention has already turned to what might be further on the horizon for the dominant Dagestani.
Khabib has previously stated that his wish to retire with an unblemished 30-0 record, which is also widely believed to be the wish of his later father and trainer Abdulmanap, who passed away in July following complications arising from a Covid-19 infection.
Assuming Khabib gets past the not inconsiderable threat from the big-hitting Gaethje, the name most widely touted for what may be Khabib’s final octagon outing is Canadian UFC Hall-of-Famer St-Pierre.
The 39-year-old former two-weight champ retired after returning to defeat Michael Bisping and win the middleweight title in November 2017, but has in recent weeks signaled that he could be tempted to return for a showdown with Khabib – with whom there is no small amount of mutual respect.
That prospect seems like a distinct possibility, according to Javier Mendez, the man who has helped sharpen Khabib’s skills at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in California.
“Yeah, it’s a big possibility,” Mendez told MMA Junkie of a potential GSP-Khabib fight.
“He might do that because all the times that I was with [Khabib] and his dad, they’ve talked about those things: two more fights, 30-0.”
“They want a legacy fight, then be done and help the other guys that are starting their fighting careers. There’s great fighters, cousins of his who are great fighters like Umar and Usman Nurmagomedov.
“They’re his blood. They’re going to be great fighters. Islam Makhachev too.
“So he wants to help them get to the title. I don’t think he’ll fight beyond that [30 fights], but anything is possible.”
Mendez also asserted that, should a Khabib vs GSP showdown take place, the winner could legitimately lay claim to the Greatest of All Time moniker.
“Yeah, I think so, and so does Khabib,” said the veteran coach. “The person that beats GSP will be the best of all time, I think so.”
Khabib is hoping to be reunited with Mendez in the coming weeks as he steps up his training for the showdown with Gaethje, which is widely expected to take place on ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi.
The Russian is currently in his native Dagestan, but is believed to be preparing to switch to Dubai for the remainder of his camp.
At a press conference earlier this month in Moscow, Khabib said he was unsure how he would be affected in what will be his first fight after the death of his father.