With Nurmagomedov Return Still in Play, UFC Lightweight Title Won’t Be Vacated

By Tristen Critchfield Nov 2, 2020

For the time being, Khabib Nurmagomedov will remain the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight title holder.

“The Eagle” surprisingly announced his retirement following a second-round submission victory over Justin Gaethje in the UFC 254 headliner on Oct. 24. During a recent interview, UFC president Dana White said that he had a “feeling” Nurmagomedov would eventually return in hopes of pursing a 30-0 career mark.

Following UFC Fight Night 181 on Saturday, White reiterated that sentiment at the evening’s post-fight press conference.

“Well, he didn’t say that he’ll fight, but he didn’t say no,” White said. “He’s considering the 30-0. His father wanted it and I think that he was super-emotional. (He) had the mumps, measles or whatever, broken toe, trained on a stationary bike for that fight, and then came in and fought, and he was super emotional.”

When Nurmagomedov made his announcement, he said his decision was based on a promise he made to his mother prior to UFC 254. However, as long as the chance remains that Nurmagomedov could return, the UFC lightweight crown will not be vacated, White says. That means the targeted upcoming clash between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, for example, will not likely have championship hardware on the line.

“He’s still the champ – there’s no vacant title open right now, or no interim title happening,” White said of Nurmagomedov. “He’s the champ and we’ll give him some time to figure out what he wants to do. … I feel pretty good [about it]. He said he was going to talk with his mother.”

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