Daniel Cormier: Dana White made “smart” decision not stripping Khabib Nurmagomedov of title

Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier

Former two-division UFC champ Daniel Cormier believes the UFC made the right move by allowing Khabib Nurmagomedov to keep his title.

Nurmagomedov, the UFC lightweight champion and current pound-for-pound king of MMA, announced his retirement after he submitted Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Despite this announcement, UFC President Dana White expressed optimism that the lightweight star will fight again.

Cormier, who has spent years training with Nurmagomedov at American Kickboxing Academy in California, doubts we’ll see the Russian in the cage again. That being said, he understand White’s eagerness to get Nurmagomedov—a massive star for the UFC—back into the Octagon.

“We didn’t get much into it,” Cormier said on ESPN’s DC & Helwani show, recounting his latest conversation with Nurmagomedov (via MMA Fighting). “We laughed about it a little bit but you know what, I think that if you’re Dana White, you’re saying what you need to—hope that that is what Khabib wants to do.

“I think if you’re Dana White and the UFC, you’re hopeful that’s what Khabib wants to do, but like I said last week, if Khabib Nurmagomedov gives his word, generally that’s a fact. Now, would I be surprised with the economic impact that a fight he could have could bring that could bring him back? No, and I would not judge him for that if he came back. He’s 32 years old for God’s sake and he can still beat everybody in the world. But there are things that if he says it’s his word, I take him at that.”

Despite his retirement, Khabib Nurmagomedov has not been stripped of the UFC lightweight title. Cormier believes that’s the right move, and stressed that the promotion needn’t have any urgency in terms of crowning a new lightweight champion.

“Now that’s smart,” Cormier said about not stripping Nurmagomedov. “I think that’s smart and that speaks to the value that Khabib has… Henry Cejudo said he was done, the same night they announced Petr Yan was gonna fight somebody for that title. You don’t do that to Khabib Nurmagomedov. You sit and hope. You sit and wait and hope. Like Dana said, he was very emotional. You could see it, it all came out of him. So you sit and you wait and you hope that the stance changes and you do get that thirtieth fight.

“You don’t [even] have to make a decision in January [when lightweight contenders Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier fight]. I think you can wait until next summer… The reality is this though, with the way that things have gone with the pandemic and everything, Khabib was gonna fight in April but he didn’t fight until October (and) nobody was yelling, ‘Take the belt from him.’ You’ve got time in regards to Khabib Nurmagomedov and if push comes to shove and he needs more time, create another interim title and he just beats the interim champion. That’s exactly what’s happened the last couple times.”

Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired for good?