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10th Jul 2018

Khabib Nurmagomedov decides on next opponent if McGregor fight falls through

First up, the champ champ. If that hits the skids, 'The Eagle' has a a great fall-back idea

Patrick McCarry

First up, the champ champ. If that hits the skids, ‘The Eagle’ has a a great fall-back idea

Khabib Nurmagomedov is back in training. Who he fights next is up for debate but the UFC lightweight champion knows he will be fighting again before the year is out.

Since claiming 155lbs gold back at UFC 223, Nurmagomedov has returned home to Dagestan and has dutifully seen through another Ramadan. He is now back in full training and could be in action as soon as September, in Las Vegas.

The identity of his opponent for a first title defence is up in the air, however.

Conor McGregor is the presumptive challenger in what would be his first MMA bout since dethroning Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 back in November 2016. The Dubliner has taken on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing context in the interim but a return to his first love has been delayed by legal troubles. He is due back at Brooklyn Criminal Court on July 26 following on from the bus attack at Barclays Center in April.

UFC president Dana White, on Saturday, told reporters:

“You know what? I’m not even thinking about Conor until… I’m serious.

“I know they [McGregor’s camp] say there are talks but we’re not talking about a fight right now. Conor has to get through July; he has to get through July. Whatever is going to happen to him in July, we’ll figure that out.”

Over in Dagestan, the reigning champion has weighed in on the matter of his next fight. On the Anatomy of a Fighter series, he declared:

“If not Conor, if not GSP [Georges St-Pierre], I think winner of Eddie Alvarez versus Dustin Poirier. The winner deserves a title shot.

“About [former interim champion] Tony Ferguson, I don’t know. He has surgery but if he can [fight], why not? Tony Ferguson is biggest match-up for me. It is the match I want… I don’t know if he is healthy but if he is, why not?

“I am ready for September, October… If they want to make money, let’s go – Khabib versus Conor.”

Nurmagomedov says the final decision regarding what would be a seismic bout ultimately rests with McGregor. He claims lots of money will be made but that McGregor will definitely lose.

That fight would draw in record numbers but the alternative – Poirier or Alvarez – would be a compelling watch.

Back in April, not long after Nurmagomedov had defeated Al Iaquinta to be crowned undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Alvarez told MMA Junkie:

“I know, 100 percent, match-up-wise, wrestling, stylistically, I watch the champion fight a lot. I am the guy to beat the champion. Not Dustin Poirier. Not Conor McGregor. Not anyone.”

Alvarez added: “Khabib says, ‘Paper champion, who’s fake champion, who’s real champion?’ You beat no. 11, and now you’re champion. So think on that. Pray on that during Ramadan. No. 11, and now you’re champion.”

Both men take on each other at UFC on FOX 30 at the end of this month.