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Did Khabib retire to escape Charles Oliveira? ‘Maybe that’s why he stepped away’

UFC 254: Khabib v Gaethje Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

When Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, which led to a sudden and somewhat premature retirement, nobody in the MMA community was campaigning for “The Eagle” to stick around for one last title defense against Charles Oliveira.

That’s because “Do Bronx” had yet to break into the Top 5 at 155 pounds. In addition, the Brazilian was still two months away from his Tony Ferguson fight at UFC 256, which catapulted Oliveira into his UFC 262 headliner opposite Michael Chandler.

Perhaps “Mystic Eagle” saw it coming?

“That’s the one interesting fight that I would like to see if Khabib came back in the division,” UFC bantamweight star Sean O’Malley told Canal Encarada (transcribed by Alexander K. Lee). “It would be Charles. Everyone else I think Khabib kind of mauls. I think Charles is the only one that can really give Khabib problems and, who knows, maybe that’s why Khabib stepped away. Maybe he saw, ‘I don’t want that guy.’ Who knows, but yeah, that’s one fight that I would be interested in seeing Khabib come back for. It would be a massive fight.”

Oliveira, 32, is the winner of 11 straight with 10 finishes.

Nurmagomedov, now 33, retired with a perfect professional record of 29-0 and finished some of the biggest names in the division along the way, including Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and the aforementioned Gaethje.

Oliveira also finished Poirier and Gaethje and could perhaps score the trifecta if the promotion greenlights a future showdown against McGregor. As for O’Malley, he continues his climb up the 135-pound ladder opposite Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 in July.