"Winner of Dustin and Conor will fight for my belt" - Khabib Nurmagomedov
"We will meet with Dana soon, we will discuss."
The current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov insists he is not coming back and that McGregor vs. Poirier is for his belt.
January 23 will see Conor McGregor make his latest MMA comeback at UFC 257 on Yas Island (a.k.a Fight Island) in Abu Dhabi. He is taking on Dustin Poirier in a run-back of their September 2014 encounter, and there could be more at stake than just another notch in the win column.
Back in October, Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 and promptly laid down his gloves in the centre of The Octagon. His father and mentor, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, had passed away earlier this year after contracting Covid-19 and 'The Eagle' vowed he would step away after defending his 155lbs strap one final time.
"This is my last fight," he declared. "There's no way I'm going to be back without my father."
The UFC have yet to officially remove the Dagestani from their rankings or take back the belt he vacated. There is hope, within the organisation, that he may even be convinced back to go 30-0 [with another win] before walking away for good.
The return of McGregor to the lightweight ranks - he has only fought there twice in four years - will fill that star gap left by Nurmagomedov, but will it be for the title? In a recent interview with The Mac Life, McGregor's coach John Kavanagh said he did not get why it was not for the 155 belt.
"Maybe it’s Dana [White]," Kavanagh mused. "This is a little carrot towards Khabib - 'Do you really want this guy [to have it?]' I don’t know. I know there’s stuff, the games that go on, I don’t involve myself in it."
Nurmagomedov has also been speaking, as 2020 wraps, and he told Match TV, that he expects the winner of Poirier and McGregor to a shot at the belt, although his comments were later added to by his manager Ali Abdelaziz.
"Top three [lightweight] fighters right now? Poirier, McGregor and Islam Makhachev. He is not in the top-five yet, but those are the best fighters. The winner of Dustin and Conor, they will fight for my belt."
Nurmagomedov, in the same interview, said he planned to speak with UFC president Dana White soon and acknowledged that the promotion is eager for him to fight again. However, he added, "I would not like there to be a possibility that I will return."
Abdelaziz, who also manages Gaethje, has since come out to claim Nurmagomedov believes the winner of McGregor Poirier II will get a title shot, and not the title outright. He would very much like his man Gaethje to get another crack at the belt if Khabib Nurmagomedov is intent on retirement.