Khabib Nurmagomedov has never shied away from addressing his potential retirement, and a win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 would leave him with few options in the lightweight division.
The undefeated Russian missed the competition at 155 pounds in the UFC, and he holds dominating wins over former champions Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Given that Nurmagomedov’s motivation has always been more about competition than pay, Gaethje is arguably the biggest challenge left in today’s lightweight landscape.
So what would remain of Nurmagomedov if he surpassed Gaethje?
“Very good question, honestly – very good question,” Nurmagomedov told MMA Fighting Thursday on media day at UFC 254. “I don’t know. For example, I’m going to finish Justin Gaethje in the cage on October 24th. What else? That’s a very good question.
“I love the competition. I love to compete with the best fighters in the world. This is why I am here. I’m not in the UFC to make money. I have a lot of business plans outside of UFC, I can make some money. Good question. Very good question.
In recent years, Nurmagomedov has openly considered the end of his fighting career. If he were to beat Gaethje at UFC 254, it’s even harder to ignore that fact as he approaches 29 wins with zero losses.
Despite the lack of a potential suitor behind the scenes, the Dagestani native, 32, said retirement was not really on his mind at the moment. Add to that, he revealed that UFC President Dana White had already mentioned something important in the works for him, but Nurmagomedov has vowed to keep him a secret until his fight, which takes place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
“I do not think so [retirement after this fight]Nurmagomedov said. “We have a few options. We will think about it after this fight.
“Dana told me that after this fight, he had something special for me. But I told him, please keep this, after the fight, we’ll talk. He says he has some really big things after this fight for me. We’ll see. “
One opponent that Nurmagomedov has mentioned several times that would serve as a dream fight is a showdown with former UFC two-division champion Georges St-Pierre. It remains to be seen if this is an option the UFC will explore. Another name that keeps coming back to Nurmagomedov, like it or not, is a rematch with McGregor, whom he overcame by submission in a heated grudge match in 2018.
Just recently, White mentioned that the UFC was interested in reserving Nurmagomedov against McGregor as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, which would end in a rematch. The UFC president said the plan was scrapped after Nurmagomedov rejected the idea following McGregor’s social media outburst.
For his part, Nurmagomedov isn’t thinking of McGregor or anyone else at the moment as he prepares to face Gaethje in a few weeks.
“Right now I’m focusing on Justin Gaethje, October 24,” Nurmagomedov replied when asked about McGregor. “I’m focused on him. I don’t want to underestimate this guy.
“Justin is a very tough, very tough opponent. He follows his dream. He is very hungry. He has just beaten a very tough opponent. I don’t want to underestimate him. I’m focusing on October 24th. “