Reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has ignited more talk that he might consider a retirement U-turn after he shared a photo of himself in Las Vegas with the promotion’s former owner, Lorenzo Fertitta.
UFC boss Dana White has been engaged in an unending campaign to convince the undefeated Russian to return to the cage for one more fight after he sent shockwaves through the mixed martial arts community last year by announcing his retirement moments after increasing his career ledger to an impressive 29-0 with a win against the dangerous Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi.
A tearful Nurmagomedov stated in the cage that he had made a promise to his mother that he would end his career following the passing of his father and trainer, Abdulmanap, who passed away last summer due to complications following a Covid-19 diagnosis.
White has since met with Nurmagomedov on several occasions since in a bid to entice him back to action. So far at least, the fighter has remained steadfast in his decision to step away – but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stoked a few rumors along the way.
Oh don’t get my hopes up like that.
— Bruhman ➐ (@KynnShab) March 17, 2021
Please this be true
— Alex Mavromatis (@blackjack11009) March 17, 2021
The latest speculation that he could be set to return has again been started by Nurmagomedov himself after he published a photo online of a meeting with Las Vegas casino magnate Fertitta.
“It was good to see you, Lorenzo,” Nurmagomedov wrote along with the photograph, adding to the promotion’s president: “Dana White, send me location.“
Along with his brother, Frank, Fertitta bankrolled Dana White’s purchase of the UFC two decades ago and remained as owners of the company until they were bought out by talent agency WME-IMG for a sum north of $4 billion in 2016.
Since then, both men – particularly Lorenzo – have maintained a significant interest in the sport. And it seems as if Dana White may well have called his old friend in to once again try to tempt Nurmagomedov back into the octagon.
Nurmagomedov, though, has remained firm since announcing his retirement last October and downplayed his series of meeting with White as mere formalities.
“We meet every time I’m there,” Nurmagomedov said of his Vegas trip.
“It’s just been hyped up too much recently, and I don’t like it. When I’m in Vegas, we always see each other for tea or dinner.
“I let Dana know that I don’t want to hold [the division] up. I had my word. I achieved everything I wanted in this sport.”
That sounds about as declarative a statement as any. But something tells us that until Nurmagomedov rips up his UFC deal in front of White’s face, the fight promoter with dollar signs in his eyes isn’t going to stop trying to persuade him otherwise.