White met with Khabib on Friday at a UAE Warriors event in Abu Dhabi, as the internet melted down amid rumors and speculation of how their much-anticipated face-to-face meeting played out.
Early on Saturday, White said that he would reveal the outcome of their conversation before the start of the main card at UFC on ABC 1, the promotion’s 2021 curtain-raiser on Fight Island.
And later in the day, the UFC boss shared the news that the undefeated Russian superstar could return to the octagon – but with the caveat that it would have to be against a lightweight rival he deems an exciting challenge.
White said that Khabib had been impressed with Charles Oliveira’s win over Tony Ferguson in December, and that he would also have his eye on next week’s UFC 257 card, where lightweight rivals Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier meet in the main event and Dan Hooker and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler meet in the co-main event, also at 155lbs.
White said Khabib’s message to him had been to “show me something spectacular” in order to lure him back, but that he would “never tie up the division.”
“If somebody delivers… I have the feeling he (Khabib) will fight them,” White said.
Khabib’s career stands at an undefeated 29-0, with 13 of those wins coming in the UFC octagon. He captured the UFC lightweight title at UFC 223 when he defeated late replacement Al Iaquinta for the vacant belt in Brooklyn, New York.
Since then, Khabib successfully defended the title with rear-naked choke finishes of former two-division champ Conor McGregor and interim champion Dustin Poirier, then re-unified the title with a triangle choke finish of another interim champion, Justin Gaethje, before announcing his retirement inside the octagon.
Khabib revealed his decision to call time on his career was as a result of a promise made to his mother following the passing of his father Abdulmanap following complications from Covid-19.
However, the lure of the octagon appears to have prompted a potential rethink by Khabib, who could yet make his UFC comeback.
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