Longtime teammate and training partner Daniel Cormier is uniquely placed to discuss Khabib Nurmagomedov’s mindset as he mulls over a potential return, but he admitted he isn’t worried whether his friend decides to return or not.
Cormier is working on commentary duties this weekend at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi as Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier meet in the blockbuster main event.
But while the attention of that fight, as well as the co-main bout between fellow lightweight contenders Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler, is gathering plenty of attention, the underlying storyline is whether one of the four men in action can do something special enough to entice Khabib out of retirement in a bid to take his stellar career to 30-0.
Speaking to the press during a media session this week, Cormier shared his take on Khabib’s situation and, perhaps surprisingly, admitted that he didn’t look to steer his friend toward any particular outcome.
“For Khabib, it has to be something (that excites him) competitively,” he explained.
“His financial position is so different, I don’t think it’s just going to be money any more. I think when you get to a certain point in your life… Money’s great, obviously, but he lives in the mountains in Dagestan, Russia. How much do you really need?! I figure you don’t need all that much.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s got a lot of different ventures outside of the octagon. So, something competitive that makes him go ‘Wow! This makes me want to put everything else aside and get back to work and prepare for a fight.’
“Because that’s what it takes. You don’t just go to a fight. Everything else is on hold as you prepare. And for a guy like Khabib, who has so many irons in the fire, it will take something that excites him to get him back into training camp.”
Cormier revealed that Khabib had directly asked him to give him his advice on what to do next, and admitted that he batted back the request by saying he’d back him, regardless of his decision.
“He actually asked me the other day. He actually asked me,” he revealed.
“He said, ‘What do you want? What do you want me to do?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t really care.’
“‘You fight, I’ll support you. I’ll help you prepare, we always have. If you don’t, we’ll still talk and we’ll still see each other when Umar fights, and Islam fights.’ It just really doesn’t matter to me.
“I have no vested interest in him fighting. Granted, as a fan of the sport, you want him to fight. As an organization, you want him to fight… but for me personally, as a friend, I really don’t care. And I guess I don’t know if he thought that was going to be the answer.
“I was saying, ‘As a fan, people want you to fight. But ultimately it’s your decision.’ I gain nothing. No money. He ain’t gonna pay me! For all of the wrestling practices, he’s given me not one red cent! So ultimately, I’m getting no money out of this.”
While Cormier admitted he was fine with Khabib’s decision regardless of whether he opts to return or remain retired, he did say that he loves watching his friend fight, and hinted that the current landscape in the UFC lightweight division – with a host of new challengers waiting for him, as well as a potential blockbuster rematch with McGregor – may just encourage him to come back.
“I get to see my buddy do something I know he loves to do. He loves to compete and he’s the best at it,” Cormier said.
“And, when you look at the matchups, why would he not (want to continue), because he’s so much better than everybody else.
“So it has to be something that makes him believe, ‘This is going to be much tougher for me. This is something I’m going to have to really prepare for if I want to continue to dominate the way that I do.'”