UFC legend Georges St-Pierre doesn't believe the UFC wants retired UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov to leave fighting on his own terms.
St-Pierre appeared on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show and spoke about why the organization was trying to bring Nurmagomedov back into the Octagon (h/t Alexander K. Lee of MMAFighting.com):
"From a business standpoint, for sure the UFC does not like one of their athletes to leave on their own terms, especially when they are champions. They like to keep the ball rolling in the organization and that's one of the things they were angry at me [about], I've done this two times. But I think they attach too much importance into that. If you look at boxing, the way they promote the sport, it would be for example, 'Mayweather vs. Canelo,' and then after you know what they're fighting for.
"But in UFC, the way they promote it is 'UFC 259,' that's the UFC, they promote the UFC, then you have the two guys. So it's just a different way they promote the sport. I think the promotion should be more centered on the athlete than the promotion because there's all kinds of titles. The title is just a meaning. Even if you're champion, doesn't mean that people think that you are the best in the world if you are champion. You can be champion, but you haven't fought the best guy. People are not stupid. People know that."
Nurmagomedov, 32, retired in October after defeating Justin Gaethje, his third defense of the UFC lightweight title. After defeating Al Iaquinta in April 2018 to secure the belt, he knocked off a trio of big names to retain it—Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Gaethje. He stopped all three fighters early, all by submission.
That left him a perfect 29-0 in his professional fighting career and 13-0 in the UFC. His ground-and-pound style and elite wrestling overwhelmed opponents, and as he improved as a striker, he became arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Surely, Dana White and the UFC weren't thrilled to see one of their star fighters and biggest draws call it quits in his prime. White has maintained that he believes Nurmagomedov will ultimately fight whoever shakes free as the top fighter in the lightweight class during his absence.
"And [Nurmagomedov] can say whatever he wants. Khabib can say whatever he wants," he said in February, per ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "I believe if this thing plays out, and the right guy, however the fights happen, he'll fight him. I truly believe that."
Nurmagomedov offered a potential hint that he's considering a return after posting an image alongside UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta:
St-Pierre can relate to Nurmagomedov. After defending the UFC welterweight belt an incredible nine times between 2008-13, he chose to walk away from the sport. He spent four years away before returning in 2017, winning the middleweight title in his debut fight at the weight class vs. Michael Bisping. He hasn't fought since and retired officially in 2019.
He was one of the most dominant fighters the UFC has ever seen, and even he tipped his cap to Nurmagomedov.
"I believe they want to keep Khabib in because they feel like Khabib is undefeated," he said. "He has probably the most dominant career ever. I don't even know if he lost a round—he might have lost a round but he dominate all his opponents."