After months of speculation, it is now finally official that Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired from MMA.
Fans have been waiting with bated breath since Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement at UFC 254 in October last year. Several rumors and scenarios presented themselves in the following months, which made it appear like 'The Eagle' might soar once again.
Dana White himself had stated on multiple occasions that he was not giving up on a possible return. However, his recent tweet has now put the matter to rest.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has done enough in his MMA career to have earned the right to retire undefeated. He even made history by becoming the first fighter ever to bow out while still being the pound-for-pound king. However, his retirement also means that MMA fans will now miss out on some of the best matchups that the UFC lightweight division could have possibly seen.
Here are the 5 Khabib Nurmagomedov dream fights that we never got to see.
#5 Michael Chandler
Michael Chandler announced his arrival to the UFC lightweight division with a stunning KO of Dan Hooker at UFC 257. In a pay-per-view overrun by expectations thanks to Conor McGregor's big return against Dustin Poirier, Chandler cemented his own position in the division with a first-round knockout and an even more explosive post-fight promo.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was among the fighters in the lightweight roster that Chandler called out. The former Bellator lightweight champion challenged 'The Eagle' to fight him if and when the latter decides to return to the Octagon. "See you at the top," Michael Chandler had said before signing off. He tweeted the same while reacting to the confirmation of Nurmagomedov's retirement.
Michael Chandler is now set to fight another top contender in Charles Oliveira for the lightweight belt that Khabib Nurmagomedov vacated. Ironically, these two are the only top UFC lightweights that Khabib Nurmagomedov never faced inside the Octagon.
#4 Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman and Khabib Nurmagomedov are close friends outside the Octagon, thanks to their shared management. But an in-cage matchup between the two friends would have undoubtedly been one of the best clashes of wrestling prowess the UFC had ever seen.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is as world-class a wrestler himself, said that Kamaru Usman is 'one of the best at wrestling out of seven billion people on the planet'. Speaking to RT Sport ahead of Kamaru Usman's title fight with Gilbert Burns, Khabib Nurmagomedov said that he didn't see anyone beating 'The Nigerian Nightmare' in the years to come.
But if Khabib Nurmagomedov had to take on that challenge by going up a division and possibly becoming a 'Champ-Champ' in the UFC, would he have stepped up to the occasion? Unfortunately, we will never get the chance to find out.
#3 Nate Diaz
Even though Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz never ended up meeting inside the Octagon, there has been some serious bad blood between the two dating back to 5-6 years ago.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz have engaged in altercations outside the cage on two different occasions, which provided all the fuel their rivalry needed to culminate in an explosive fight inside the Octagon.
In Nate Diaz's version of the story, he slapped Khabib Nurmagomedov at WSOF 22 back in 2015 and 'The Eagle' did not even fight back. Nurmagomedov, of course, remembers the incident differently.
We might not see their feud settled in the Octagon, but with Nate Diaz involved, there is always a chance for fans to witness some entertaining online banter over the matter.
#2 Georges St-Pierre
Even after Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement, there were rumors of him returning for one last fight to make his record 30-0 as his father wanted him to. The fighter whose name kept popping up as a possible opponent was Georges St-Pierre, mostly because Khabib Nurmagomedov has been extremely vocal throughout his career about how much he wanted to fight GSP.
However, GSP did not want to come down to lightweight, and Khabib certainly did not want to move up to welterweight. Everyone knows how Dana White feels about catchweight bouts, especially for such a high-profile contest. As a result, the fight never materialized. The two fighters, however, continue to have great respect for each other.
#1 Tony Ferguson
This one is a no-brainer.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson were star-crossed rivals who never got to meet inside the Octagon. They were booked to clash on five different occasions, but the bout never actually took place. A fight involved the two became the subject of a running joke within the MMA community.
The two fighters were supposed to face each other at UFC 249 in April of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the fight from going through as travel restrictions made things difficult. Ferguson faced Justin Gaethje instead and lost at the pay-per-view. This led to Nurmagomedov fighting Gaethje at UFC 254 later in 2021.
There is no doubt that Khabib's ground dominance would have possibly met a match in El Cucuy's resilient and high-volume striking style. Unfortunately, this fight will remain one of the could-have-beens in the world of MMA even though it had the potential to be a fight for the ages.