- Khabib Nurmagomedov is the new UFC lightweight champion!
- The newly minted champ called out Georges St-Pierre after winning the title, but the super-fight seems unlikely.
- There are quite a few exciting and lucrative fights open for the new champion.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is now, in the most anti-climatic way possible, the new UFC lightweight champion. Conor McGregor has been inactive for over two years and was stripped of the title; Tony Ferguson injured himself and was stripped of the interim; and Max Holloway was not medically cleared to contest the strap. The UFC scrambled to find a replacement and picked Al Iaquinta to face Khabib on very short notice.
Over five rounds, the Dagestani made easy work of his over-weight, under-prepared opponent, cruising to a comfortable decision victory. Now he’s achieved his dream of becoming the 155-pound champ, but an asterisk looms over his name because of his easy path to the title. He still has a lot to prove; everything hangs on his next fight.
Being champ opens new doors, and Khabib is now a legitimate big-name draw in the UFC. Who will he face next? Let’s delve into a few of his options.
Who Will Be Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Next Opponent?
Fifth time’s a charm, right?
After Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov fell through for a fourth time, Dana White declared that the fight will never be booked again. When asked whether he would book the fight for a fifth time, White answered with an unequivocal “Hell no!”
We know better than to take White at his word, though. This is a fight the fans want to see.
We know better than to take White at his word, though. This is a fight the fans want to see; it’s a fight both fighters want; and it’s an essential fight for the lightweight division. The UFC boss can say what he wants, but this fight cannot be ruled out.
Just take a look at the rest of the top-ranked 155ers — Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Dustin Poirier, Kevin Lee. There are two names at lightweight that tower above the others, and that’s Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
It just seems plain unfair for the UFC to grant Nate Diaz, the eighth-ranked fighter at lightweight, a shot at the crown. Diaz hasn’t fought since the McGregor rematch in 2016 and has spent the last few years jockeying for a trilogy. Of all the top-ten lightweights, Diaz is probably least deserving of a title fight.
But there is one thing Diaz has over the other contenders: pay-per-view potential. The younger Diaz brother has a cult following among MMA fans and knows how to sell a fight. This isn’t the most reasonable match-up the UFC can make, but it’s definitely one of the most lucrative.
It only makes sense that the newly minted lightweight champ takes on the former champ, but recent events may have complicated things. McGregor’s rampage last week, which resulted in the cancellation of two UFC 223 main card fights, has further strained his relationship with UFC boss Dana White.
On top of that, the Irish two-division champ is holding out for a rematch against Floyd Mayweather. It seems negotiations for an MMA-ish rematch in the octagon are well and truly underway, and while that potential fight remains open, we can forget about a title fight between Khabib and Conor.
The elder Diaz brother has finally settled with USADA, accepting a retroactive one-year suspension. That clears Nick Diaz to fight later this month!
After three years of forced inactivity, the Stockton-based fighter will not want to waste any time getting back into the octagon. A fight against Khabib would be a strange fight for the UFC to book, but it would definitely sell well.
Nick Diaz did his best work at welterweight and his last fight was at middleweight, so cutting back down to lightweight could be a problem for the 34-year-old. Perhaps Nurmagomedov could put his 155-pound strap on hold and venture up to 170 pounds for a lucrative money fight.
– GSP fight in November
– Iaquinta's a real gangster
– Where's the chicken
— UFC (@ufc) April 8, 2018
The new king of the lightweight division has called out the old king of welterweight. After defeating Iaquinta last weekend, Khabib requested a November fight against GSP at Madison Square Garden.
St-Pierre made his highly-anticipated UFC return late last year, stepping into the cage with Michael Bisping and claiming the middleweight crown. The two-division champ vacated the belt soon thereafter and stepped back into the shadows.
This would be a momentous occasion and a fascinating match-up, but let’s not hold our breath. GSP already said he isn’t interested in taking on Nurmagomedov, and Khabib himself admitted that the fight is unlikely to ever happen.
Still, we can dream.