After making Justin Gaethje tap out at UFC 254 to retain his lightweight title, Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the world by announcing his retirement from mixed martial arts. Nurmagomedov said he was stepping away because of a promise he made to his mother following the death of his father, coach, and mentor,su Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, last summer.
Nurmagomedov’s biggest rival, Conor McGregor, feels that “The Eagle” is retiring for another reason.
“I think he’s afraid to fight me, that’s for damn sure,” McGregor told ESPN ahead of Saturday’s UFC 257 rematch against Dustin Poirier. “I don’t blame him. I know exactly what to face. I fought the best of him that night, and he fought the worst of me that night. He knows it, I know it, his team knows it.
“I have the answer to destroy that man. He can pull the wool over people’s eyes only for so long, but it is what it is. I know there’s surrounding things regarding the family. If he’s retired, then that’s it. I wish him well. But I am who I am, and I’m at the top, and time will show.”
Nurmagomedov and McGregor had a hotly contested buildup that got extremely personal ahead of their UFC 229 clash. “The Eagle” controlled the majority of the contest to win by fourth-round submission. A melee ensued afterwards between both fight camps, and multiple suspensions came down because of the incident.
On Saturday, UFC president Dana White said he talked with Nurmagomedov and claimed the native of Dagestan left a crack open to a possible return depending on Poirier-McGregor and the co-main event between former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker. Then there is fellow lightweight Charles Oliveira, who recently battered Tony Ferguson.
While McGregor wants to avenge his loss to Nurmagomedov, he isn’t going to be begging for it.
“I’m here for it. I would like it,” McGregor said. “But if it doesn’t [happen], it doesn’t. I wonder what he’s going to say. Like I said, he can only pull wool over someone’s eyes for so long.”