UFC supremo Dana White appears relentless in his optimism that he can persuade the undefeated Nurmagomedov to return for a money-spinning final career fight in pursuit of an unparalleled record of 30-0 – a one-time stated aim of both Khabib and his late father and mentor Abdulmanap.
White trumpeted a clarification of Khabib’s fighting future after a sit-down meeting with him on “Fight Island” last week, but later revealed during the UFC on ABC 1 broadcast that Nurmagomedov hadn’t yet come to a definitive conclusion as to his future.
The promotion president added that Nurmagomedov may opt to return if he sees something “spectacular” from some of the men involved in the UFC 257 lightweight bouts – Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler.
However, days after that meeting Khabib has hinted that he suspects his return to the cage is unlikely.
“Let’s start with what drives people,” Khabib said in an interview with Sport24ru. “Hunger. There must be some motivation, some hunger.
“If you’re not hungry… you know, I’ve been in sports for so many years, I’ve been doing it all my life. I’ve achieved almost everything in this sport, and there isn’t someone who I would like to fight now.
“I know there are many fighters who would like to earn money, who strive for something. What should I do? A lot of people don’t want to understand my side. I don’t see that yet.”
Khabib was on “Fight Island” to help his cousin Umar prepare for was a successful UFC debut on Wednesday, beating tough Kazakh Sergey Morozov by second-round submission.
Khabib says that he has a lot of future projects on his plate, none of which involve him setting foot on the octagon canvas.
“Something has to happen for me to come back,” he said. “In the near future we have Zubaira (Tukhugov), Islam (Makhachev) and Tagir (Ulanbekov). Umar fights (Wednesday).
“Usman… Our fighters who are in the Eagle Fighting Championship league. The league itself that will make the tournaments in Tashkent, Bishkek, Alma-Ata, Dubai.
“There was a tournament in Abu Dhabi. There will be a tournament in Moscow, St. Petersburg, in Krasnodar. And if we talk about all my business projects – I have so much to do that is planned… and fights are not in these plans.
“I train for myself. The biggest thing that gives me pleasure is training. I enjoy when I wrestle, run, spar, work on pads, when I work on the punch bags.
“This is what I have been doing all my life, and I will continue to train constantly as well. But if we talk about the fights, they are not part of my plans.“
Khabib tearfully announced his decision to step away from mixed martial arts shortly after defeating Justin Gaethje by second-round submission in Abu Dhabi last October, saying that he made a promise to his mother that he would not continue his combat career outside the influence of his late father and trainer.
Despite speculation to the contrary – much of it stoked by White – Khabib said that it would take a lot to get him to reverse his word to his mother.
“My mother is the most precious thing that I have left. Come on, you won’t push me to do things that will disappoint my mother,” he explained.
For now, though, Khabib says he has grown weary of the constant speculation.
“They constantly discuss: he will come back, he will not come back. Today we have 2021. A year ago, it was 2020, the same time, January.
“And so much has happened. We don’t know what will happen in 2022, 2023, you know? So let’s not talk about it.
“No one knows what will happen tomorrow. I don’t even have any plans for the UFC in the near future. I don’t even have any thoughts about preparing for a fight.
“I saw how Umar was preparing now and I think: Alhamdulillah I have left it behind. Don’t torment me – let me enjoy what I have for today.”