Retirement isn’t stopping Khabib Nurmagomedov from wading back into the lightweight fray.
The former UFC lightweight champion took aim at Justin Gaethje on Thursday over Gaethje’s calls for a title shot in the aftermath of UFC 268. Jumping into the comments section of an ESPN Instagram post, Nurmagomedov criticized Gaethje for his recent résumé and scoffed at the idea of Gaethje being most deserving challenger for the winner of UFC 269’s upcoming lightweight title bout between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.
“In last 8 fight, you got finished 3 times Justin. You had an opportunity to become champion, but you fell asleep,” Nurmagomedov wrote, adding a sleeping face emoji.
“Islam [Makhachev] is on the 9 win streak, 3 fight in 2021 and all finishes. Just shut up and admit that Islam deserves this title shot, not you.”
A coach and longtime confidant of Makhachev’s, Nurmagomedov choked Gaethje unconscious in the final fight of Nurmagomedov’s career with a second-round rear-naked choke in October 2020 at UFC 254.
Gaethje finally returned to the win column this past weekend with a three-round decision win over Michael Chandler at UFC 268 that is already on the shortlist for Fight of the Year. In the aftermath of the performance, Gaethje has publicly campaigned for the next UFC title shot. The 32-year-old American is the No. 3-ranked lightweight on MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.
Makhachev, meanwhile, pulled off his own big win in recent weeks with a first-round submission of Dan Hooker at UFC 267. The 30-year-old Dagestan native has won nine consecutive UFC bouts and is MMA Fighting’s No. 5-ranked lightweight in the world.
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