Khabib disputes claims over UFC middleweight king
Retired former UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov has refuted claims made by his own manager that he could return to the organization and dethrone dominant middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya.
Nurmagomedov, 33, retired from mixed martial arts shortly after increasing his record to a perfect 29-0 with a submission win against dangerous American buzzsaw Justin Gaethje in October 2020.
The Dagestan native resisted a prolonged charm offensive from UFC boss Dana White who was petitioning Khabib to return for one last money-spinning fight in a bid to increase his record to a more symmetrical 30-0 - a target which was previously stated objective of both the fighter and his late father and trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
However, Khabib cited a promise he made to his mother as the motivation behind his retirement and has steadfastly stuck to his word, and has channeled his efforts into helping the likes of longtime associates such as Islam Makhachev in their own paths to world titles, as well as fronting his own Eagle FC fight promotion.
But given the dominance he displayed during his active career as a fighter, speculation continues to be stoked that Khabib could one day make an unlikely comeback - the latest of which came from his own manager, Dominance MMA chief Ali Abdelaziz.
“Khabib now weighs 200lbs,” said Abdelaziz to MMA outlet Sherdog. “If Khabib comes tomorrow and cuts to 185, he would stop [middleweight champ] Israel Adesanya in three rounds.
“I see it. He beats heavyweights, light heavyweights, welterweights, lightweights – he’s unstoppable now. He’s like a tractor trailer. If Khabib wants to come back and talks with Dana White and says, ‘Let me fight at middleweight,’ he will finish Israel in three rounds.”
Khabib, though, isn't quite behind his manager's prediction.
“I’m not going to fight at 185,” the Russian star said to Main Event, while in Las Vegas to collect his UFC Hall of Fame award.
“I’m not going to fight with him, it’s like, right now this is his time. Don’t try to take his greatness. How many years as middleweight champion? Three? Four? I think he deserves some respect.
“Don’t treat him like this, like some lightweight can beat him easily. If we grapple, we can grapple, like in the gym like I did with all these heavyweights, light heavyweights, middleweights, but going to fight and talking about ‘oh I can smash him’, I didn’t say this. People talk about this, I don’t agree with this.”
Adesanya, 32, has been faultless in his middleweight career thus far. The Nigerian-born New Zealander is unbeaten in 22 fights at 185lbs in his career, with his sole loss coming when he attempted an ambitious move to 205lbs to challenge then light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
'The Last Stylebender' takes on his latest title defence this Saturday night in Las Vegas where he defends his crown against top contender Jared Cannonier - an athlete who has fought as high as heavyweight in his UFC tenure.
Adesanya currently has 11 consecutive middleweight wins in his UFC career - two behind the record set by the legendary Anderson Silva.