Notes from the Combat Underground: The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed : Khabib Nurmagomedov could be the next Lightweight Champion

Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov entered the UFC in 2012 with a 16-0, undefeated record and put the entire lightweight division on notice. Since then, he hasn’t lost a fight and has improved his record to 25-0. At UFC 219, the promotion’s close-out event for 2017, he cemented his claim for the throne with his one-sided, brutal domination over Edson Barboza. In any other division, he would clearly be in contention for a title shot, but the static created by Conor McGregor, who has been holding up the division for over a year has created a “holy trinity” between him, McGregor and Interim Champ Tony Ferguson. Despite his impressive undefeated record, Nurmagomedov has yet to fight for a title.

Originally, Nurmagomedov was booked to fight for the title against then-champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 back in 2016 but despite Dana White’s confirmation, the fight was given to McGregor who was campaigning to become the first “two-division champion.” True, McGregor sells a lot of pay-per-views and had defeated Jose Aldo to garner the Featherweight champion strap, but he once again skipped the ahead of a list of killers to fight a champion who many considered to be in his twilight years.

Maybe the title shot has escaped him because his brand of MMA is ugly, brutal and not very fan-friendly. There are no crowd-pleasing knock-outs or stunningly executed spinning kicks. Instead, Nurmagomedov lives in those exhaustive grappling fringes, his opponents endure takedown attempt after takedown attempt, upper body throws and the grind of his Combat Sambo style until they break and with the exception of Gleison Tibau and possibly Pat Healey, they always break.

Injuries and missing weight have also been black marks on his record. In the last three years, he has only logged in three fights. He was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 back in March 2017 which was the third time they were supposed to meet. Due to a botched weight cut which resulted in Nurmagamedov taking a trip to the hospital, the fight was scrapped.  It was a much-anticipated fight that would have determined the number one contender for the division.

Nurgmagomedov doesn’t have the push that the UFC has given other fighters, however he has the entire Russian MMA fanbase behind him. Similar to Conor McGregor, he is calling in the nationalism card, a smart move since Russia currently boasts a population of 143 million fans versus Ireland’s 5 million. To date, the UFC has yet to visit Russia for an event.

But let’s face it: the guy’s body of work stands on it’s own. MMA Junkie reported that Nurmagomedov camped out at Dana White’s card after UFC 219 in the hopes of securing a shot at either Tony Ferguson’s Interim Title or the legit Title held by Conor Mcgregor. Speaking of McGregor, this is what he has to say about Nurmagomedov’s victory via his Twitter account:

“That Dagestani was dog shit the other night, you are all nuts, game full of sloppy bums asking to be slept. Pay me my worth and Kings back.”

Indeed. It sounds more like a guy that is avoiding a fight instead of a guy that is trying to promote a fight.  We get it: he’s rich, he has more money than everyone blah, blah, blah, but at some point he has to either defend his title, which would be a first for him, or give it up. Also, McGregor seems to have forgotten that his legion of fans is the reason why he has all of his money. At some point, he owes it them to fight.

McGregor will most likely never fight Khabib Nurmagomedov. Why would he? Any lightweight should be on notice with this guy lurking in the shadows like some boogie man. He is a real threat, to date no one has been able to stop his relentless game plan of take down, grind and smash. McGregor has a shot in the opening minutes of the fight, but if it goes into the second round, he will have a long, bloody night filled with elbows and top control.

The real fight is Tony Ferguson versus Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both men have fought their way up the division with no favors done for them by Dana White. In a perfect world, that would be the fight for the true Lightweight Championship.