In October, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his title against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Should he win, it will be Nurmagomedov’s 29th victory with zero defeats and it also could be the penultimate fight of Nurmagomedov’s career.
Last month, Khabib’s father passed away, triggering a wave of speculation about the future of the lightweight champion. Not long after, Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, floated the idea that “The Eagle” may look to fulfill his father’s wishes by fighting twice more to get to 30-0 in his career and then retire. The idea of a final fight for Nurmagomedov inevitably shifted to a superfight with former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre as it’s a fight Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap, wanted for his son for a long time, and UFC President Dana White seems amenable to the idea. And while Khabib has not confirmed that he will be retiring after two more fights, he has made it clear that he’s very interested in the GSP fight, should he get past Justin Gaethje.
“Regarding Georges St-Pierre, that fight really inspires me,” Khabib said at a recent press conference in Moscow (video and translation courtesy of RT Sport).” It was my father’s dream fight. But time passes, Georges St-Pierre will be 40 next year. I think he has to decide whether we’ll fight or not. I want that fight. If I beat Justin in October, then fight St-Pierre in April before Ramadan, that would be ideal.
“Dana told me after this fight they’ll talk to St-Pierre. If he agrees, we’ll fight. Both I and the UFC want that to happen.”
Things are slightly more complicated than just booking the fight though. St-Pierre retired from the sport last year, in part because the UFC would not honor his and Khabib’s wishes to fight each other. Since then, GSP has hinted at a possible return if the Khabib fight was put on the table, however, he has also made it clear he’s happy in retirement. Not to mention that a return for St-Pierre would require him to rejoin the USADA testing pool for at least six months. With UFC 254 taking place on Oct. 24, and Ramandan beginning April 12 next year, that would mean St-Pierre would need to re-enter the USADA testing pool before UFC 254 even takes place to fit Nurmagomedov’s timeline. But if the stars don’t align for a fight with St-Pierre, Khabib has a backup plan, and one that could even get Conor McGregor the rematch he’s been after.
“If I don’t fight St-Pierre, I’d fight anyone who beats Dustin Poirier next, whether it’s Tony Ferguson or McGregor, after I fight Gaethje,” Khabib said. “That’s if I don’t fight Georges St-Pierre. If he comes back to the UFC and agrees to fight me, I’m fighting him. Why? Because the last time he lost was 2007. My career started in 2008. Together we’ve been undefeated for 25 years. I’m talking in terms of time, not fights. I don’t think the UFC will get another chance to make a fight like that, definitely not in the next 10 years.
“So Georges St-Pierre is next. If not, let Conor beat Poirier, or have Tony beat him, then I’ll fight them. Why? Because right now Poirier is the next contender. We already fought and I beat him, then he came back and beat a top-five guy. So if Conor and Tony beat Poirier, I’ll fight them if I don’t fight Georges St-Pierre.”
Khabib submitted Poirier this past September at UFC 242 to retain his lightweight title. Since then, Poirier rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Dan Hooker in a Fight of the Year contender. McGregor himself rebounded from his submission loss to Nurmagomedov with a first-round KO of Donald Cerrone in January but has since “retired” from MMA. A clash between the two has been rumored as a potential title eliminator bout, as has a fight between former interim champion Tony Ferguson and Poirier. Either would make the winner a clear-cut No. 1 contender for the lightweight title.
But first things first, Khabib must fight Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Earlier this month, the lightweight champion sent an ominous message to Gaethje ahead of their bout, saying he will “take him to he deepest ocean and drown him.” Gaethje, in turn, revealed that he plans to create “a zone of death” in front of him during their fight. But despite the brutal messages being exchanged before the fight, Khabib actually says that unlike with some previous opponents, he has no issues with Gaethje at all.
“I have no ill will towards him,” Khabib said. “He fights, wants to be the best in the world, and I respect his efforts. He achieved a lot in this sport and I think he’s a worthy opponent. You saw what he did to Tony Ferguson. I don’t underestimate him. It’s strictly professional. We’ll get in the cage, shake hands, handle our business, and leave.”