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26th Apr 2018

Eddie Alvarez’s unflattering assessment of UFC lightweight title is actually bang on the money

Khabib Nurmagomedov won't like this at all

Ben Kiely

As per usual, Eddie Alvarez has a very valid point.

When he’s not dropping fools inside the Octagon, Eddie Alvarez has a penchant for dropping pearls of wisdom.

The former lightweight king correctly predicted the promotion’s plans for Conor McGregor’s belt at UFC 223. When a situation turned sour while coaching on the Ultimate Fighter, he remained incredibly composed to calm it down. And, he’s offered arguably the most insightful take on the potential match-up between McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Somehow, the UFC’s ‘most violent man’ is also one of the most respected voices in the sport. His arguments can generally be debated, but they’re rarely written off as dumb. At first glance, his assessment of Nurmagomedov’s champion status seems a little salty. However, when you think about it, you will realise it actually holds some water.

Number… one?

Nurmagomedov may be the greatest lightweight on planet Earth. However, no one can say with any degree of certainty that he is definitely the number one 155 lber. Until a match-up is made involving two of the three front-runners of Ferguson, McGregor and Nurmagomedov, or a new contender emerges to displace any of them, this won’t be known.

As Alvarez was quick to remind everyone on the MMA Hour, Nurmagomedov won the belt by beating Al Iaquinta on short notice. ‘Raging’ is a great fighter, but being ranked outside the top 10 meant being a late replacement was the only way he was going to fight for the belt in Brooklyn.

“If the Philadelphia Eagles show up for the Super Bowl, and New England can’t make it, you don’t bring in the third-place team to play for the Lombardi Trophy. You have to wait and you have be patient. You can’t tell the No. three, four, five guys ‘you get a title shot.’ It just got silly real fast. Everything got silly real fast, and it made the belt quite meaningless.”

Choose your words very carefully

Before UFC 223, Nurmagomedov didn’t recognise any of the then-belt holders in the lightweight division as legitimate champions. McGregor held the belt, Ferguson held the interim belt, but in ‘the Eagle’s eyes, neither were real champions.

As Alvarez pointed out, Nurmagomedov consistently referring to Ferguson’s and McGregor’s ‘fake belts’ in the build-up to UFC 223 seems to have been forgotten by a lot of people. And he’s right, it certainly is convenient for the Dagestani to hold the belt in a year they will debut in Russia.

“You know what no one’s talking about? Khabib talked about fake champions, fake belts., fake this, fake that, and everything is fake, fake, fake. No one said that they were just begging to give him that belt because they had Russia behind him. Russia is going to be an open market soon, and it’s convenient Khabib has the belt.”

If Ferguson was a ‘fake champion’ for finishing Kevin Lee and McGregor was a ‘fake champion’ for knocking out Alvarez, what does that make Khabib?