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Khabib explains why UFC hasn’t vacated his lightweight title

UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov defends his title Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Despite retiring from mixed martial arts (MMA) earlier this year, a decision that came in the wake of his Justin Gaethje submission at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is still in possession of the 155-pound belt.

Probably because promotion president Dana White is convinced he can persuade “The Eagle” to fly one more time in 2021, though White might be running out of dreams to sell after Nurmagomedov improved to 29-0 with his second-round destruction of “The Highlight.”

“Dana White and I are constantly in touch, we did not discuss the moment about the vacancy of the belt,” Nurmagomedov told Match TV. “I think this is due to the fact that the organization really wants me to resume my career. This is understandable - I spent nine years in the league, I had a lot of fights, became the champion, defended the title, never lost, I have a huge fan base from all over the world.”

In addition to Gaethje, the 32 year-old Nurmagomedov also finished former champion Conor McGregor, as well as longtime contender Justin Gaethje. You can argue that Charles Oliveira keeps the division from being cleaned out after “Do Bronx” disposed of Tony Ferguson, but I doubt that’s enough motivation for “The Eagle.”

“The desire of the UFC is understandable to me, I don’t blame them,” Nurmagomedov continued. “I will not hide, they are persuading me to return. There is nothing surprising. They offer conditions, fighters - but this is hard to surprise me, they have no one to offer me. Soon, in a couple of weeks, we will meet with Dana and discuss.”

In the meantime, McGregor will rematch Poirier in what is expected to be a non-title fight in the UFC 257 pay-per-view (PPV) main event next month on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, unless a decision on Nurmagomedov’s belt can be made before then.