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UFC Without Khabib?

What Does the Championship Do Without Him?

April 22, 2021 7:22 PM
Khabib Nurmagomedov is seen here at the Kremlin in 2019 (Администрация Президента РФ/Wikimedia Commons)
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Note: This story was originally produced over a month ago. Information, dates, predictions, and other details may be outdated.

At UFC (United Figthing Championship) 254, the world was shocked to hear when reigning light weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov left his gloves in the center of the octagon and announced his retirement following his win over Justin Gaethje. In the post-fight interview Nurmagomedov said, "Ain’t no way I'm gonna come here without my father." Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away due to COVID-19 in early July 2020.

Khabib made a promise to his mother to not fight without his father in his corner (Время спорта/Wikimedia Commons)

So now what does the UFC do going forward? They have many options that they can do with the lightweight division. The division is stacked with former champions elite level talent such as star Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, and recently signed Michael Chandler. Now it is up to UFC president, Dana White, to set up right fights to determine who takes Khabib's spot at the top of the lightweight division. But what exactly are those fights?

In October, UFC came to a verbal agreement with McGregor and Poirier to fight early next year, but progression with the contracts has since halted. McGregor has been public with his frustrations on how he just wants to fight, but should the title be on the line when he does? He one of the more qualified in the division being a former champion not only in featherweight but in his current division. Having McGregor fight for the title would be very easy to market as he is arguably the biggest box office star in UFC history.

Conor McGregor won his first title back in 2015 against former champion Jose Aldo (Andrius Petrucenia/Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, McGregor, may not be as deserving as others such as Tony Ferguson. Ferguson is coming off a loss to Justin Gaetjhe where he was originally scheduled to fight Khabib but Khabib pulled out of the fight due injury. Since that fight Ferguson has not been scheduled for another one. A possible fight for the belt could be a rematch with Gaetjhe because the original was on short notice. We would be able to see what the fighters would do with a full training camp against each other. Although both are coming off losses there, losses are coming from qualified opponents and both were previously coming off long win streaks.  

Another factor that comes into play is UFC big recent signing of Michael Chandler. Chandler had been a star in previous fighting promotions and is looking to continue by taking his talents to UFC. Chandler, in a recent interview, stated he wants to fight someone ranked in the top five, preferably Justin Gaetjhe or Tony Ferguson. Beating someone in the top 5 could easily boost Chandler into title contention.

Someone who can make noise in the division and could possibly be a major factor in the future is Khabib’s close friend is Islam Makhachev. Makhachev is scheduled to fight former welterweight champion Rafeal Dos Anjos on November 14, 2020*. Khabib has stated that he is shifting his focus on training his friend and doing everything he can do to make him champion. A win over a former champion could start more discussion of him fighting one of the top five ranked fighters.  

*This fight did not end up occurring.

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