Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

UFC

McGregor or St-Pierre - UFC president Dana White open to Khabib Nurmagomedov choosing final opponent

Unbeaten Russian next faces Gaethje in his 29th MMA bout

Khabib Nurmagomedov would be free to choose his final opponent should he wish to retire within his next two fights, be that Conor McGregor or Georges St-Pierre, according to UFC president Dana White.

The undefeated lightweight champion, currently 28-0 in professional mixed arts, is said to considering calling time on his career if he reaches 30 bouts unbeaten - as had been his late father’s wish. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, 57, died earlier this month from heart complications.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has not spoken much publicly since his father’s death, but will return to the octagon later this year to face interim champion Justin Gaethje. Although unconfirmed, the unification bout has been mooted to take place in Abu Dhabi in October.

Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told Abu Dhabi Sports recently that his client would look to go for 30-0 should he defeat Gaethje, a Dominance MMA stablemate, and then retire.

Speaking to ESPN on Monday, White said he would back Nurmagomedov in selecting his own final opponent, including former welterweight and middleweight champion St-Pierre.

The Canadian is viewed by many as the greatest UFC athlete of all time. Meanwhile, a rematch with McGregor has been touted ever since the two met in the highly contentious clash in October 2018, which Nurmagomedov won.

“Obviously [Nurmagomedov's] got this Gaethje fight,” White said. “That’s a done deal, he’s fighting Gaethje next. And I don’t know who his last fight would be to make him 30.

“At the end of the day, the Conor McGregor fight, I know Conor has wanted that fight since the last one. That's a fight to make, but I don't know. We'll have to see how this plays out. But the Gaethje fight is absolutely, positively the next fight for him."

Asked if he would entertain a request from Nurmagomedov to make St-Pierre his final fight, White said: “Sure. It’s the last fight of his career. The guy's been great. He’s been great to the company, great to the sport. I like Khabib a lot. I would do anything Khabib wanted to do."

Nurmagomedov, 31, has not fought since last September, when he defeated then-interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. The Dagestan native submitted the American in the third round.

The UFC has just returned to its Las Vegas base from a residency in the UAE capital, with the inaugural Fight Island concluding on Sunday. The series comprised four events at Flash Forum, beginning with UFC 251 on July 12 and ending with Fight Night 3. The UFC are expected to return in September, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Updated: July 28, 2020 05:31 PM

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