Khabib Nurmagomedov: Dustin Poirier Deserves to Be UFC Lightweight Champion

By Tristen Critchfield Feb 9, 2021

With another meeting with UFC president Dana White looming, Khabib Nurmagomedov has some ideas on how he thinks the lightweight division should unfold.

“[Dustin] Poirier deserves to be champion, that’s my personal opinion,” Nurmagomedov said in an interview with Match TV (translation via RT Sport). “Look at who he’s fought. Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway. He’s fought me, Conor. These are all top fighters, maybe fighters who will end up in the UFC Hall of Fame. I think intrigue will appear in the lightweight division as soon as they decide the title fight and eliminator.

“At the moment, it’s held up and not clear what Dana’s thinking. I think it’s going to be on fire in the lightweight division this summer. The lightweight division has always been the most competitive, the most interesting, with big stars. It will take new turns this summer. A new, younger, generation is already coming, plus there’s Chandler, Oliviera, Poirier, Gaethje, a lot of good fighters. With that mix, it will be interesting this summer and towards the end of the year.”

Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following a victory against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 this past October. The lightweight champion met with White in Abu Dhabi last month, but the UFC boss was unable to persuade the Dagestani star to return for one more fight. Nurmagomedov believes White isn’t done trying to convince him to come back.

“Dana told me he isn’t done yet. I can say that,” Nurmagomedov said. “When I told him the lightweight division needs to move on, he told me he isn’t done. He said to me, ‘When you fly to Vegas at the end of February, we’ll sit down and talk.’ Dana needs to make some kind of decision. But whatever the decision, I’ll agree with it.”

At the moment, the lightweight crown has not been vacated. Poirier and Michael Chandler earned significant victories at UFC 257 on Jan. 23, but for now it’s unclear what direction the promotion will head with the division. Nurmagomedov continues to emphasize that he doesn’t want to be an obstacle in the process.

“I’m focused on my own big projects, four or five of them. I have to spend time on them,” Nurmagomedov said. “As for my career as a fighter, I don’t want to go into details. Dana’s an honest person; we always had an honest relationship. I think he’ll let the media know the message that I sent him a week ago.

“It’s not a secret. I just told him how I’d like things to develop, not only related to me but the lightweight division in general. I told him I don’t want the division to be held up. But, on the other hand, fighters have only just been in action, and people already understand in general who we’ll see fighting for the title. I know they’re already making plans, I think for around May or June, for a title fight. But between who?”

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