Khabib Nurmagomedov says he recently texted Dana White to argue in favor of a lightweight title for his longtime friend and teammate Islam Makhachev — and apparently White left the retired legend on read.
“Honestly, this is the first time since we started talking to each other that he don’t respond to me,” a laughing Nurmagomedov told ESPN on Wednesday. “I send him message saying ‘No way someone else can fight for the title. Islam has to be there.’ He don’t respond. I think he busy, maybe. It’s OK. Everybody make mistake. He’s going to come back stronger.”
Nurmagomedov vacated the UFC’s lightweight title after he retired in 2020, and Charles Oliveira (33-8) has taken over the division in his absence. The 32-year-old has won 11 fights in a row, including finishes over Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler.
Oliveira was stripped of the lightweight title after failing to make weight for his most recent defense against Gaethje earlier this month but is still widely viewed as the champion.
Nurmagomedov has been outspoken in his belief that Makhachev (22-1) should face Oliveira next. It’s been widely expected that Makhachev will compete at a UFC event on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a heavily Muslim region where he is very popular. Nurmagomedov said that if Oliveira does not want to fight in Abu Dhabi, however, he would actually prefer to see Makhachev face Oliveira in the Brazilian fighter’s home country.
“I hear they want to make a big show in Brazil in December,” Nurmagomedov said. “OK, December is good for Islam. They don’t want to go to Abu Dhabi? I hear Charles Oliveira’s coach say, ‘Come to Brazil.’ No problem. Send us location. We’ll go to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, no problem. We’ll go there two weeks before fight, rent some big house, come with big team, make weight — not like Charles Oliveira — and we’re going to finish Charles Oliveira on his game, on the ground, on Brazilian land. We’re going to teach all fans what is top control, how we finish people. We’re going to take the belt and go back.”
One scenario Nurmagomedov shot down is any notion that an Oliveira win over Makhachev might prompt his own return to the sport. He reiterated again Wednesday that he will never compete again.
“If he beat Islam, of course I’m going to feel bad,” Nurmagomedov said. “Of course I’m going to feel bad, but no way people can talk about, ‘Khabib is going to come back.’ Please, leave me alone. Let these guys fight. This is different time, different fighters. Now, they are prime time. We have to understand who is the best lightweight in the world, Charles or Islam.”
The UFC has not indicated what’s next for the now vacant 155-pound title fight, other than the assurance that Oliveira will represent one-half of the next championship fight.
Nurmagomedov might never fight again, but he did say he is open to coaching The Ultimate Fighter reality series opposite his old rival, Tony Ferguson. The two were scheduled to fight five times from 2015 to 2020, only to see each date fall through for various reasons.
Ferguson has expressed interest in still competing against Nurmagomedov in some shape or form, and Nurmagomedov says he is open to the idea. He just needs White to return his text message.
“If me and Tony, we gonna be [TUF] coaches, I think they can create some good content,” Nurmagomedov said. “If they are interested and if Dana respond to my message. He has to check his message. … Dana, we have to finish our business, brother. call me back.”