As the curtain closes on a pandemic-hit 2020, UFC has had its last event of the year at UFC Vegas 17.
The promotion will now have a month-long break before it returns on January 16th in Abu Dhabi, where former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway takes on Calvin Kattar in the main event at UFC Fight Night 184.
While UFC fighters and employees will be spending the holiday season with their loved ones - a much deserved and well-earned break - the wheels of the promotion will keep on turning.
UFC president Dana White had mentioned that he plans on releasing about 60 fighters by the end of 2020.
However, that also means that there will be new signings and fresh blood inserted into the UFC roster.
Among these 'new' faces will be some fighters who are no longer with the organization or who have previously announced their retirements. Yet, due to varying circumstances, they may be seen in the octagon again in 2021.
Here are the five fighters most likely to make a UFC comeback in 2021.
5. Nate Diaz
The Stockton native is an eternal crowd favorite. He made a victorious return to the UFC in 2019 after a near three-year absence, defeating Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision at UFC 241.
He then fought Jorge Masvidal for the symbolic BMF belt at UFC 244, only to lose the fight via doctor’s stoppage.
The two were scheduled for a rematch but the fight never materialized.
Nate Diaz has always been an eccentric character and normally operates on his terms. That being said, UFC is bigger than ever and there is a lot of money to be made in the coming year, especially keeping for a scrapper of Diaz’s popularity.
He can put on a good clash with any fighter on the UFC roster, and can fight both at lightweight and welterweight.
4. Henry Cejudo
Triple C may be ‘The King of Cringe’ on social media but his accolades in the fight game are anything but embarrassing.
Cejudo won and defended both the bantamweight and flyweight championship titles in the UFC.
In achieving this feat, he was the man responsible for releasing the grip of Demetrious Johnson on the UFC’s flyweight division.
With a new breed of fighters at flyweight, with the likes of champion Deiveson Figueiredo, Brandon Moreno, and Alex Perez taking over the division, Cejudo will have options to pick and choose his return.
Petr Yan too has been making waves as the bantamweight champion, and he will pique the interest of the former champion.
Henry Cejudo had also shown interest in fighting Alexander Volkanovski to become the first three-division UFC champion.
‘The Messenger’ has been quite vocal on social media since his retirement at UFC 249 and his return may be more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’.
3. Gegard Mousasi
Gegard Mousasi was on a five-fight win streak with the UFC when he decided to join Bellator MMA in 2017.
While unconfirmed, many believe that the reason for this switch was because the Dutchman was overlooked for the shot at then-champion Michael Bisping.
While Bisping faced off against a returning Georges St. Pierre, the veteran Mousasi moved on to Bellator in a quest for the gold.
He won the promotion's middleweight title at Bellator 200 defeating Rafael Carvalho.
And although he lost the strap to Rafael Lovato Jr. at Bellator 223, he recently won it back defeating Douglas Lima at Bellator 250.
One of the few fighters to leave the UFC on a winning streak, it is fair to declare Mousasi as the undisputed king of Bellator’s middleweight division.
Mousasi will be keen to return to the UFC to prove that he is the best in the world at 185 pounds. With UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya fighting for the light heavyweight belt, it is feasible for Mousasi to get an interim title shot in his first UFC outing if he decides to return.
2. Georges St. Pierre
That bout may seem unlikely, but a closer look at the situation may reveal that there is still a possibility of this happening.
Khabib has stated that he has no ‘competitive’ desire left after beating everyone in the lightweight division. However, his hit-list is missing the name of GSP.
GSP is still training in MMA regularly and it is public knowledge that Khabib is a fan of the UFC legend. The return of one to the octagon may ensure that the other comes back to competitive action as well.
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov
‘The Eagle’ shocked the MMA world at UFC 254 when he announced his retirement from MMA after submitting Justin Gaethje in the second round of the most anticipated bout of 2020.
He has since stated that he has ‘no competitive desire’ left, and that he is looking to pursue an entrepreneurial career.
This career change led to him recently purchasing Gorilla Fighting Championship and renaming it Eagle Fighting Championship in homage to his late father.
However, it is well known that Khabib’s father Abdulmanap wanted him to retire with a record of 30-0. Gaethje was Khabib’s 29th victim.
As stated earlier, Khabib is a big fan of GSP and might consider one last outing in the octagon if the Canadian decides to be his dance partner.Published 24 Dec 2020, 23:13 IST