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After dismantling Edson Barboza at UFC 219 in one of the more lopsided lightweight affairs you’ll ever see, undefeated Russian contender Khabib Nurmagomedov essentially put his name on the short list of deserving title contenders.
The only problem for “The Eagle” is that his spot in line for the title may disappear if current champion Conor McGregor decides to end his mixed martial arts (MMA) hiatus this quarter. Upon his return, McGregor would most likely have to defend his title opposite current interim champ Tony Ferguson.
While Nurmagomedov has lobbied for a bout with “El Cucuy,” the promotion is ultimately going to go whichever route McGregor chooses, especially if that means getting “Notorious” back in action in the coming months. Luckily, Nurmagomedov has a pretty enticing backup plan should a McGregor vs. Ferguson matchup come to fruition.
“I think that Conor, Diaz, and Ferguson, instead of fighting with Khabib, will be better off against each other 30 times,” Khabib’s father and trainer, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, said in a recent interview with MatchTV.ru (h/t MMA Fighting). “If Conor and Ferguson fight among themselves, give us [Eddie] Alvarez. He said that he was preparing Barboza for Khabib. Well, let’s see, let him go himself now.”
If Ferguson comes away with a huge money fight opposite McGregor, Eddie Alvarez would be a suitable replacement to test Khabib. The former UFC lightweight champion is coming off a spectacular knockout finish over Justin Gaethje back at UFC 218 and is one or two wins away from his own title shot.
Considering Nurmagomedov barely worked up a sweat against Barboza at UFC 219, the oft-injured contender is ready to step back into the cage right away. In fact, “Eagle” is looking to take flight three times in 2018, as long as his schedule doesn’t interfere with Ramadan.
“If in the first third of Ramadan, then this is normal: Khabib will not begin to weaken,” said Abdulmanap. “In fact, eight days before the fight, when he makes weight, he already eats little and eats less than in Ramadan after sunset. Until May 22, we are ready to take the fight.”
Nurmagomedov is healthy and coming off one of the best weight cuts of his career. So whether it’s against McGregor, Ferguson, Alvarez, or a wily Russian bear, UFC needs to do everything in its power to get Nurmagomedov back inside of the cage.