Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos recently declared on Twitter that Khabib Nurmagomedov would come out of retirement if he beats rising Dagestani star Islam Makhachev in a prospective fight later in the year.
Twice last year the two were scheduled to fight, with Dos Anjos being the first man to pull out due to a positive COVID test and later Makhachev through injury.
Since then, both men have earned wins inside the Octagon. Dos Anjos with an unanimous victory decision against Paul Felder in November, Makhachev, extending his win streak to 8 with wins against Drew Dober in March and Thiago Moises last weekend.
However, time has done little to subdue the simmering tensions between the two, with Makhachev calling out his potential opponent in a post-fight interview after his win over Moises.
“I’m gonna give him 3-4 months, let’s do this!”Islam Makhachev
Soon after Dos Anjos made his bold yet tantalising proclamation regarding Khabib’s potential return, the claim was quickly squashed by the manager of the Russians.
“Listen, I like Rafael. Got no problem with Rafael but he’s trying to catch some hype but whatever he’s saying it’s not true. (…) Khabib is retired and I think people should not talk about Khabib out of respect”Ali Abdelaziz speaking to MMA Fighting
Historically there is tension between Dos Anjos and Nurmagomedov. Back in 2014 “The Eagle” out-grappled the Brazilian in typically dominant fashion to secure a unanimous decision victory on his road to lightweight gold.
Nurmagamedov retired in October of 2020 at a staggering 29:0 following the death of his father, coach and mentor Abdulmanap. Despite being implored to return by both fans and UFC President Dana White, he has continued to stand by his decision.
Since then his turn to coaching has proven to be equally as effective, standing at 5:0 as an official cornerman. The defining point being that one of those now under his guidance is none other than lifelong friend and training partner Islam Makhachev, now no.5 in the official lightweight rankings after his win at UFC Vegas 31.
Respected by the entire MMA community, Abdulmanap planned for his son to retire undefeated and have Islam take his place as lightweight champion of the world soon after.
The prospect of a match-up with Makhachev and the spectacular implications that a victory would bring must surely make Rafael Dos Anjos a hungrier fighter than he has been in years, whilst also giving Islam his hardest test yet – as well as offering him the opportunity to continue Abdulmanap’s legacy. At 155lbs this is undeniably the fight to make.