The UFC is gearing up for its final PPV event of 2020. It’s been a big year, and 2021 promises to be bigger still with a lot of speculation around the future of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
For the last All Things MMA podcast, we were joined by the head coach of American Kickboxing Academy – also Khabib’s head coach – Javier Mendez.
So, we put the question to him – just how retired is Nurmagomedov?
“Well, this is the thing about that”, starts Mendez.
“Number one, I was never informed ‘that was it’, he was done. I wasn’t focussed on anything but getting him to that fight (against Justin Gaethje) in the best shape possible.
“He had what’s called mumps when he first came to camp and he was out for two weeks. He showed up on 11 September, was out for two weeks with no training. He got back to training, about 3-4 days into it he breaks his toe. He’s messed up there.”
“As far as the retirement, I won’t talk to him about it, that’s not my place. It’s between him, his mother and his family, that’s not my business. My business is to take care of him.
“The other issue is this, I’m sure people will understand. His title was never taken from him. Dana (White, UFC President) still says he’s champion as far as he’s concerned. Dana obviously wants him to fight and is expecting him to fight.
“You’re in a situation where you’re still in the USADA testing pool (drug testing programme for UFC competitors), and he tested recently. Obviously, there’s still fair play there where it could happen. I don’t know, and I’m not going to discuss it with him.”
“But, he’s still in USADA so that means he’s not retired officially and he still has the title so officially he’s still a champ and he’s still pound-for-pound the number one. When you look at all those characteristics, you would think there might be a fight.”
That’s the burning question. It’s not a case of wanting for money, fame or legacy. At 29-0, the Dagestani lightweight has nothing to prove in the sport and indeed he is done (at the request of his mother in the wake of his father’s passing this year), he leaves as a future UFC Hall of Fame resident.
Yes, the lure of 30-0 is there, but he has repeatedly stated he has no issue in fighting Dustin Poirier (again) or Conor McGregor (again) with the due set to compete at 155lbs in January.
A final fight against the likes of GSP? It sounds great, but achieves little for either man.
However, you can be full sure that if he does make a return to go out with a 30-0 record, it will be the biggest money fight the UFC has ever seen, regardless of who the opponent is.