Straight off the bat of an absolutely dominating performance which sent a message to the UFC champion and interim-title holders, Khabib Nurmagomedov has stated that he is happy to fight both on the same night
“The Eagle” made light work of elite striker Edson Barboza on the last UFC card of 2017 in Las Vegas last night, which will cause further headaches for the promotion’s matchmakers.
In an ideal world, things should be a lot simpler. Conor McGregor, the 155-pound title holder, is still no closer to a booking. Despite holding the championship since November 2016, “The Notorious” is yet to make a single defense of his crown. The champion’s foray into boxing against Floyd Mayweather led to the introduction of an interim title to the mix, which was picked up by Tony Ferguson in his victory over Kevin Lee earlier this year.
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were set to determine the undisputed challenger for the first shot at McGregor’s title, yet the Dagestani was forced to withdraw due to complications with weight cutting just hours before that bout. As unfortunate as it was for fans and both fighters, Ferguson’s interim-title capture will have undoubtedly given him the confidence that he is next in line for a big-money payday and chance to unify the titles against Conor McGregor. And this where things kind of get difficult…
With three elite fighters at the top of the division, all with reasonable claims to do things on their terms, finding a way to accommodate everyone’s demands will be tiresome. McGregor has previously indicated that he has no real interest in fighting Ferguson, as he believes “El Cucuy” will not generate as much interest in terms of pay-per-view revenue than he would like. Ferguson, who has the interim-title, will insist that he will only fight McGregor and will likely reject the UFC’s move to match him up with Nurmagomedov. Having gone through a full training camp only to witness the Russian pull out at the last minute will not be something he will want to risk, nor will the possibility that he loses the fight and his shot at McGregor.
Nurmagomedov’s performance, unbeaten record, and stellar talent make him a hugely marketable figure, especially for the promotion’s plans to move into Russia. While he is still arguably third in line in terms of credentials, he will undoubtedly reject any contract without the name Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson adjacent to his own.
The 29-year-old has a solution, however: let him fight both in one night:
“Maybe, if UFC approves, I can fight with these guys same night,” Nurmagomedov told the post-fight press conference at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. “I swear, I don’t joke. If UFC makes this, I can fight same night. I can fight with this guy same fight. Why not? Right now I’m fresh, I fight with Edson Barboza 15 minutes. You know?
“Real belt is 25-0,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is real belt. They’re all fake belts. To be honest, real belt is Tony Ferguson. Conor, he has only one fight in UFC at 155 and he have champion. He beat Eddie Alvarez. He’s good fighter, but he’s not champ. I think lot of people can beat him in 155. This is my opinion. I think lot of people can beat him at 155. He has good boxing, good timing, but he don’t have wrestling, he don’t have grappling, he don’t have conditioning, but he have a belt.”