*** UPDATE: Khabib has reiterated that he is, indeed, retired (details). ***
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President, Dana White, is still trying his best to convince his current Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, to come back for one more fight after announcing his retirement from the sport in Oct. 2020.
I say current champion because despite “The Eagle’s” persistence in never fighting again, the promotion has yet to strip him of the title of champion to allow two worthy contenders to fight for the vacant strap.
White has gone on record to say that he would love nothing more than to see Khabib attempt to reach 30-0 before he truly hangs up his gloves, a goal “The Eagle” himself set forth before his father died of COVID-19 complications in mid-2020. But according to former UFC Middleweight and Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, there seems to be an ulterior motive.
To hear him tell it, the promotion wants Khabib to come back for one more fight in the hopes that he loses, therefore preventing him from walking way on his own terms as an undefeated champion.
“From a business standpoint, for sure the UFC does not like one of their athletes to leave on their own terms, especially when they are champions,” St-Pierre said in a recent interview with ESPN (transcription via MMA Fighting). “They like to keep the ball rolling in the organization and that’s one of the things they were angry at me [about], I’ve done this two times,” he added.
St-Pierre first retired from the fight game in Nov. 2013 after defeating Johny Hendricks, leaving the promotion as its Welterweight champion. When he returned in 2017 to defeat Michael Bisping to win the 185-pound title, “Rush” once again walked away, leaving the promotion without a champion.
That was the beginning if the current rift between he and White, and St-Pierre feels it has everything to do with the fact that he left as a title holder ... on his own terms. But according to St-Pierre, the title of champion doesn’t mean much these days, especially in UFC where the focus is more on the brand than the fighters.
“I think they attach too much importance into that,” he said. “If you look at boxing, the way they promote the sport, it would be for example, ‘Mayweather vs. Canelo,’ and then after you know what they’re fighting for.
“But in UFC, the way they promote it is ‘UFC 259,’ that’s the UFC, they promote the UFC, then you have the two guys,” St-Pierre continued. “So it’s just a different way they promote the sport. I think the promotion should be more centered on the athlete than the promotion because there’s all kinds of titles. The title is just a meaning. Even if you’re champion, doesn’t mean that people think that you are the best in the world if you are champion. You can be champion, but you haven’t fought the best guy. People are not stupid. People know that.”
Georges doubled down on his insistence that UFC simply won’t be happy if Khabib walks away as champion.
“For that reason I believe they want to keep Khabib in because they feel like Khabib is undefeated,” St-Pierre said. “He has probably the most dominant career ever. I don’t even know if he lost a round — he might have lost a round, but he dominated all his opponents.
“They don’t want him to leave on his terms, they want a guy to beat him, then after they gonna be like, ‘Okay, now you can leave,’” he concluded. “But Khabib is smart, I think he’s very smart, he left on top, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
That’s truly a unique perspective which many may have trouble grasping or agreeing with. That said, which side of fence do you stand on in this matter?