Dana White determined to book another Khabib Nurmagomedov fight: ‘I’m gonna press him as hard as I can for one more’


Khabib Nurmagomedov | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If UFC President Dana White has his way, Khabib Nurmagomedov will get his chance to go 30-0.

White and Nurmagomedov have both spoken publicly about Nurmagomedov’s career status in the months following the fighter’s retirement at UFC 254 after a successful defense of the lightweight championship against Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov has said he does not expect to fight again, honoring a promise he made to his mother, while White has maintained that for now Nurmagomedov is still an active UFC fighter and titleholder.

The two are expected to meet in Abu Dhabi sometime this month and White is not wavering from his plan to negotiate at least one more fight for “The Eagle.”

“I’m obviously meeting with him because I believe that he should fight again,” White said in an interview with ESPN. “I mean, look at what he did to Justin Gaethje. Look at what he’s done to every opponent he has faced. Like when I wanted [Daniel] Cormier to stay, I still think they’re the best in the world. And then there’s always the argument, well, it’s never a bad thing to go out on top.

“And when you talk about money, I mean Khabib has money beyond belief. This guy doesn’t ever have to work again and he still has the ability to do things to make unbelievable money. He’s in a very unique position as a fighter.”

“I think he should fight again and I’m gonna press him as hard as I can for one more,” White added.

Despite all the public comments from White and Nurmagomedov, White says they’ve only managed to converse with one another through texts since Nurmagomedov’s most recent fight on Oct. 24. His Abu Dhabi meeting with Nurmagomedov will be their first face-to-face conversation in almost three months. White said he hopes to have an answer for the media and fans the same evening that he meets with Nurmagomedov’s team, though he couldn’t give an exact date as to when this meeting will happen.

Asked if his interest in booking another fight comes from the perspective of a promoter or a fan, White sees it as being a bit of both.

“As a promoter, you always want the best guys in the world but at the same time as a promoter, when a guy wants to retire he probably should if that’s even crossing your mind or thinking,” White said. “The difference with a guy like Khabib is he’s been through so much and losing his dad was such a major blow to him. It’s something that they did together, yet his dad wanted him to hit 30-0.

“But as a fight fan, I want Khabib to fight 10 more.”

White has made it no secret his preferred opponent for another Nurmagomedov fight is a rematch between Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. The two broke UFC pay-per-view records with their heated grudge match at UFC 229 in October 2018, but Nurmagomedov has said on multiple occasions that he has no interest in fighting McGregor again.

Should Nurmagomedov stick to his retirement, White still sees big fights ahead for McGregor, who already has a high-profile rematch with Dustin Poirier scheduled for UFC 257 on Jan. 23.

“No matter what you think of Conor personally, Conor McGregor is not only one of the best in the world, [but] one of the best to ever do it,” White said. “Right now he’s as focused as he’s ever been. I don’t know if this is gonna be the same Conor after the Poirier fight. Like you said, Conor goes like this [makes up-and-down gesture]. But if this Conor sticks around for the next year, how do you not do Khabib vs. Conor again?

“The division’s stacked with tough guys and the reality is that if Khabib does retire then whoever the highest-ranked guy is at the time will end up facing Conor—if Conor beats Poirier and would fight for the title—I’m sure.”

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