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Javier Mendez: GSP fight only chance to get Khabib back – even then, no guarantee

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Khabib Nurmagomedov to return.

A comeback to the octagon doesn’t seem too promising for the unbeaten UFC lightweight champion, who abruptly retired from the sport back in October after successfully defending his title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 256. The retirement was a shock to many, as Nurmagomedov is a massive star in combat sports and considered to be in his prime – being 32 years old and undefeated.

Nurmagomedov retired because he promised his mother he would stop competing following the death of his father Abdulmanap, who was also his coach, due to COVID-19 complications in summer of 2020.

Since hanging up the gloves, many, including UFC president Dana White, have wanted Nurmagomedov to return and walk back his retirement.

Nurmagomedov’s American Kickboxing Academy coach, Javier Mendez, believes no amount of money in and of itself could bring back Nurmagomedov, but maybe there’s a slight chance the right fight would.

“It’s legacy, father’s plan legacy and it’s nothing other than that,” Mendez told MMA Junkie. “It’s not about money, so no. He has enough money. He doesn’t ever have to worry about supporting his family. He’s fine.”

Mendez believes a fight with former UFC middleweight and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre could do the trick, but even then, it might not be enough to entice Nurmagomedov back.

Prior to the passing of Nurmagomedov’s father, the plan was to fight again after defending the title against Gaethje. Khabib wanted to fight and beat St-Pierre, and then retire with a 30-0 record. Abdulmanap’s death changed plans. However, Mendez feels a chance could exist if the opportunity presented itself.

“Anything is possible, but it has to be for the right fight,” Mendez explained. “I did an interview and they indicated while I was doing the interview that GSP and him were fighting. And I was like, ‘What? Ok.’

“And like I’ve said, there is a good possibility that he would talk to his mom and his mom could get the approval, but until then I don’t think that was even on the table even though I guess Kenny Florian and Jon Anik said (he would fight). But that’s all I know, but I haven’t heard anything else, they said that.”

On the Anik and Florian podcast, Kenny Florian said St-Pierre is preparing to fight Nurmagomedov. No further information was revealed, but no further reports have come out on the matter.

Last month, White shut down talk of a potential Nurmagomedov vs. St-Pierre bout, saying that fight is “over” and neither party is interested in making it happen.

Although UFC brass say Nurmagomedov is not interested in fighting St-Pierre and vice versa, Mendez believes that’s the only fight that could add to Nurmagomedov’s legacy, as no other win over a lightweight fighter will do.

“To me, it would have to be a GSP figure,” Mendez said. “I don’t think another win is going to add anything. Had Conor (McGregor) won his last fight and Dana was able to entice them, and Conor looked great in doing it, then maybe, maybe we would’ve saw something.

“But you heard it from Dana. He’s throwing his hat in. What does that mean? I don’t know. Maybe behind closed doors it doesn’t mean nothing, but on the public it means that it’s pretty much put to rest.”

Competing against the rest of the UFC lightweights doesn’t seem to interest Nurmagomedov, but neither does competition a weight class above. In the past, champions have changed division in pursuit of gold in a different weight class to add to their careers.

Mendez doesn’t thing a move up to 170 pounds would interest Nurmagomedov.

“He’s never discussed going up to another weight, he never discussed any desire,” Mendez said. “He always said, ‘I’m a lightweight, coach, and I’ll stay at lightweight.’

“Based on all the years I’ve talked to him, the welterweight championship would be out of the question. The only thing that I could think of, would be if GSP and him were ever to come to fruition maybe at 165 pounds for a new title. And I think it’s needed because between 155 and the welterweight division there’s a pretty big gap.”

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