White and Khabib met on the sidelines of the UAE Warriors 15 event in Abu Dhabi on Friday night – which was co-promoted by Khabib’s own newly-acquired promotion, Eagle Fighting Championship.
Cameras followed the Russian fighter and White into a room before the door slammed shut, leaving the pair to thrash out a decision on whether the undefeated lightweight champion would return to the octagon after announcing his retirement following his emotional victory over Justin Gaethje in October.
As the MMA world waits with bated breath, White issued a statement on his Instagram account on Saturday.
“What’s up everybody, I met with Khabib Nurmagomedov last night, and today (Saturday) at three o’clock on the East Coast (US) on the ABC network, I’m going to talk about his decision and how it’s going to impact the Poirier-McGregor fight next weekend, and the co-main event (Dan Hooker vs Michael Chandler) in the lightweight division,” White said.
That set off a frenzy of speculation online, with suggestions that Khabib had officially decided to vacate his title, leaving it open to the likes of former opponents Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier – whose lightweight bout headlines UFC 257 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on January 23.
The co-main event of that card sees New Zealander Dan Hooker face UFC debutant and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler.
There have been widespread assertions that the only fight which could tempt Khabib to return to action would be a showdown with former two-weight UFC world champion Georges St-Pierre, although White had said Khabib would have to relinquish the lightweight belt for that to be considered.
Some fans speculated that Khabib had told White he would do exactly that, paving the way for a superfight with the 39-year-old Canadian, who last fought in the octagon more than three years ago when he returned to defeat Michael Bisping and win the middleweight title.
Whatever the case, the speculation looks set to come to an end sooner rather than later with White’s announcement at 15:00 East Coast time in US (20:00 GMT).