Undefeated, undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov has shared his thoughts on the current state of affairs at 155-pounds, listing arch-rival, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor, former-foe, Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier, and teammate, Islam Makhachev as the best of the crop in the current climate.
Despite his retirement immediately following UFC 254 in October, Khabib remains the undisputed king of the lightweights according to the UFC, with the Russian sambo-specialist sat atop the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings as well, dislodging former two-time light heavyweight titleholder, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
Knocking back another challenger to his throne at the October ‘Fight Island’ event, Khabib successfully unified the lightweight titles with a highlight-reel performance against interim champion, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje — nabbing a second-round triangle win.
Following the victory, an emotional Khabib shelled up in the centre of the Octagon as emotions built up following the sad passing of his father and renowned sambo trainer, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov earlier that year began to flood out.
Speaking with UFC commentator, Jon Anik afterwards, Khabib announced his decision to retire from professional mixed martial arts with immediate effect, detailing how he had made a promise to his mother that he wouldn’t feature in the Octagon again without his late father by his side.
With the title still firmly wrapped around his waist, a potential lightweight title-eliminator between incoming two-time foes, the above mentioned, Poirier and McGregor is scheduled to headline UFC 257 on January 23 in Abu Dhabi, UAE — and along with those two prior opponents of Khabib, and American Kickboxing Academy stablemate, Makhachev — Khabib sees that lightweight trio as the best in the division right now.
“Lightweight has always been very competitive,” Khabib said during a recent interview with Match TV. “All major UFC events in 2020 were built around lightweight. First, it was Conor (McGregor’s) comeback, then (Justin) Gaethje against (Tony) Ferguson. Then (Dustin) Poirier’s comeback [against Dan Hooker in June]. Then my fight with Gaethje, This weight (division) has always been interesting and competitive.“
“Top three [lightweight] fighters right now? ” Khabib said. “(Dustin) Poirier, (Conor) McGregor, and (Islam) Makhachev. He (Makhachev) is not in the top-five yet, but those are the best fighters. My belt will be taken by the winner of Dustin and Conor.“
Khabib, who is expected to meet with UFC president Dana White regarding his immediate fighting future next month in Abu Dhabi has declared his interest in honouring his retirement, however, White has noted his confidence
that Khabib will snap his hiatus in search of a perfect 30-0 résumé.
The 32-year-old Dagestani has also detailed his confusion regarding the status of the undisputed lightweight crown, claiming he’s unaware as to why he’s still billed as the undisputed kingpin despite his decision to hang up his gloves almost three months ago.