Former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre says that Dana White and the UFC are keen to see Khabib Nurmagomedov make a comeback to the cage because “they don’t want to see him leave on his own terms”.
St-Pierre is one of just a handful of fighters to have walked away from mixed martial arts at the absolute top of his game, announcing his retirement in the weeks after he defeated Michael Bisping in New York to join the UFC’s exclusive double-champ club.
Given his somewhat unique exit from his future Hall of Fame career, he says that he knows exactly why promotion boss White is so resistant to allowing Nurmagomedov to follow through with his decision to retire.
Khabib revealed in the moments after his second-round submission win against Justin Gaethje in October that the fight – his 29th win of a perfect career – was to be his last.
The Russian cited a conversation he had with his mother in which he promised to not continue his career outside the influence of his late father and mentor, Abdulmanap, who passed away last July in a Moscow hospital after suffering complications related to a Covid-19 diagnosis.
Since then, UFC boss White has launched an unceasing campaign aimed at persuading Nurmagomedov to reverse his retirement decision – something which seems to have mostly been met with deaf ears by Khabib.
But St-Pierre says that the UFC’s desire to squeeze every last drop from their lightweight champion isn’t motivated by a wish to see him break even more records and opponents, and they would rather see someone defeat him in the cage and seize the 155lbs strap from around his waist.
“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 told ESPN.
“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. But I think they attach too much importance to that. 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 the UFC, the way they promote it is ‘UFC 259’. That’s the UFC, they promote the UFC, then you have the two guys. 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.”
St-Pierre was one of the names to have been linked with Khabib over the past few years, and even since both champions announced their respective retirements. Much of the speculation had centered around quotes given by Abdulmanap some time ago in which he spoke of a fight between his son and St-Pierre as being a “dream match”.
Following his own occasional head-butting with UFC brass, St-Pierre says that he knows the UFC’s intentions – but that he also likes how Khabib has remained non-committal.
“For that reason, I believe they want to keep Khabib in because they feel like Khabib is undefeated,” he 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 are going to say, ‘OK, now you can leave.’
“But Khabib is smart, I think he’s very smart. He left on top, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”