Though he’s not Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov is trying to use all the leverage he has against the UFC. In the wake of the gigantic UFC 229 pay-per-view — which broke the UFC record for sales with 2.4 million buys — Nurmagomedov is now trying to use all the leverage he can against the UFC in order to help keep his friend Zubaira Tukhugov on the UFC roster, while threatening to leave the promotion if the UFC does not conform to his wishes. But while Nurmagomedov may be 27-0 in his career as a professional mixed martial artist, this fight against the UFC is a fight he won’t win.
Nurmagomedov can threaten to retire and leave the UFC all he wants, but the promotion has him under exclusive contract and there’s no way in hell they are going to let him go. Even if Nurmagomedov gets suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his actions following UFC 229, there’s a zero percent chance the UFC would release him from his contract. Even if 50 Cent is on social media telling Nurmagomedov he will pay him millions to come fight in Bellator, and even if Floyd Mayweather is angling for a big-money boxing match against the undefeated Russian, the UFC has him under an iron-clad exclusive contract and unless Nurmagomedov does something seriously criminal, the UFC is never letting him go.
That’s not the news that Nurmagomedov wants to hear, but it’s the truth. He can threaten the UFC all he wants, but the UFC won’t let him get his way. Yes, it’s true McGregor and guys like the Diaz brothers, Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones who are proven draws can seemingly get away with a lot more than Nurmagomedov and his team can, but that’s the nature of the business. Guys like McGregor and the other fighters I named are legitimate A-sides, while Nurmagomedov is a B-side right now. Yes, the PPV with McGregor might have shattered records, but let’s be honest, most of that was because of McGregor. There’s no doubt that PPV fight with McGregor will help turn Nurmagomedov into a bigger star and a bigger draw just like it did to Nate Diaz, but until Nurmagomedov proves he’s an A-lister and that he can sell millions of PPVs on his own, the UFC isn’t going to give him the special treatment it does for McGregor. That’s just the reality of things.
Instead of threatening the UFC over social media, which is going to get him nowhere, Nurmagomedov should be trying to work with the UFC and see if there’s a way that cooler heads can prevail. Now that the UFC 229 post-fight melee is over a week in the past, it seems like a lot of the commotion has died down and a lot of the controversy has gone away. While UFC president Dana White said that Tukhugov would be cut from the roster, the UFC could always go back on that decision to help keep Nurmagomedov happy. But Nurmagomedov would be much better suited to do this behind the scenes rather than going on social media and calling the UFC out publicly. You’d have to think there’s a good chance his manager Ali Abdel-Aziz is behind a lot of this, but ultimately the UFC isn’t going to cave to Nurmagomedov.
The win over McGregor has turned Nurmagomedov into one of the biggest names in MMA, but not for the right reasons. Instead of writing about what a great fighter he was and how impressive he put away McGregor, all the articles the last week and a half have been about the brawl. Nurmagomedov has a chance to change the narrative about the whole incident, and that would be to issue a public apology to the UFC, to McGregor, to the commission and to the fans, but going on social media and calling out his employer just isn’t smart. Nurmagomedov is one of the best fighters in the world and the UFC won’t lose him from its roster, so “The Eagle” needs to try and make amends with White and co. instead. Maybe there’s a chance Tukhugov could get his job back, but Nurmagomedov is going to have to take a different approach, because right now what he’s doing is not working.