Russian UFC champ Nurmagomedov tips winner of McGregor-Poirier to fight for his title as star confirms ongoing contact with White
Nurmagomedov, who announced his retirement decision inside the octagon moments after defeating Justin Gaethje by second-round submission in Abu Dhabi on October 24, said that the lightweight division "has always been very competitive".
In an interview with Match TV, translated by RT Sport, he named former victims McGregor and Poirier in his top three competitors in the division alongside countryman Islam Makhachev.
The Russian also revealed that UFC president Dana White remains keen to persuade him to reverse his decision to retire and return for at least one more fight.
"All major UFC events in 2020 were built around lightweight," said the man with the unbeaten 29-fight professional record.
"First [it was] Conor's comeback, then Gaethje against Ferguson, then Poirier's comeback, then my fight with Gaethje. This weight [division] has always been interesting and competitive."
"Top three [lightweight] fighters right now? Poirier, McGregor and [Islam] Makhachev. He is not in the top five yet, but those are the best fighters.
"My belt will [eventually] be taken by the winner of Dustin and Conor."
Khabib said it was hard to foresee who Poirier or McGregor might later face in their title bid, and his comments suggest that he may intend to vacate the world title in advance of the January 23 rematch between McGregor and Poirier in Abu Dhabi.
"Dana and I are in touch and did not discuss the moment with the vacant belt," he said. "This is because they want me to continue.
"This is clear - I have been in the league for nine years and have not lost. I have a story, a big fanbase.
“I will not hide the fact that they offer to return, offer conditions, [and] fighters. We will meet with Dana soon, we will discuss. I would not like there to be a possibility that I will return.”Also on rt.com WATCH: Khabib suggests UFC could attempt to engineer encounter with Conor McGregor
It had long been assumed by some that Nurmagomedov might consider a return to fight fellow icon Georges St-Pierre in an attempt to reach an unparalleled 30-0 record.
But Nurmagomedov said there is just one opponent that he would return for - and even White would not be able to arrange the showdown he imagined.
"I would have fought only with Muhammad Ali, but he is not with us," he said.Also on rt.com Chimaev vows to ‘smash chicken Conor McGregor’ after Irishman resumes talk of Khabib rematch