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Khabib Nurmagomedov says Dustin Poirier 'deserves to be a champion'

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Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the UFC's undefeated lightweight champion, although even he believes the belt should belong to Dustin Poirier.

Speaking to Match TV, Nurmagomedov (29-0) said he believes Poirier "deserves" to be the UFC's 155-pound champion, following his knockout victory over Conor McGregor last month. Before the fight, UFC president Dana White teased Nurmagomedov could potentially face the winner, but Nurmagomedov isn't interested.

"I wouldn't say Poirier and McGregor disappointed me," Nurmagomedov said in Russian. "They showed nothing supernatural. I fought with Poirier, nothing special. It's the same with Conor. I believe that now Poirier deserves to be a champion. That's my opinion. Look at the fighters he's fought: Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway. These are all top fighters and they could end up in the UFC's Hall of Fame."

Nurmagomedov, 32, abruptly retired in October, following a dominant title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. The Dagestani legend said he would not fight without his father, Abdulmanap, who died in 2020 following a heart condition made worse by COVID-19.

White and Nurmagomedov met in person in Abu Dhabi last month. Before the meeting, White told ESPN he would try to persuade Nurmagomedov, who is arguably still in his prime, to compete again. For now, Nurmagomedov remains in control of the lightweight championship, even though he continues to say he is retired.

The UFC has not yet announced Poirier's next bout. A trilogy fight between Poirier and McGregor is the most likely option as of now. McGregor knocked out Poirier in a featherweight fight in 2014, before Poirier evened the series at 1-1 last month.