With UFC 226 over and done with, the eyes of the MMA world now turn to the end of the year schedule for the UFC and the possibility of some major fights on the horizon. Perhaps the biggest of these fights is the potential blockbuster match-up between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former champion Conor McGregor.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov have been circling each other since their respective wins at UFC 205 in 2016 and now the timing looks right for the UFC to book one of the biggest possible fights in MMA right now. The only problem is getting McGregor to come back. Notorious has been away from MMA since UFC 205 and appears to be in no hurry to return to the cage, not to mention dealing with some legal troubles. In his absence, Nurmagomedov is prepared to defend his title this fall anyway, and the first name he suggests is perhaps not the one fans would expect.
If not Conor, if not GSP, I think Alvarez vs. Poirier, I think the winner deserves a title shot, Nurmagomedov told Anatomy of a Fighter recently.
Alvarez and Poirier are set to rematch at UFC on FOX 30 on July 28. And while either man would certainly be deserving of a lightweight title shot with a win, the other name most commonly mentioned as a potential opponent for Nurmagomedov is former interim champion and rival, Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov says that he doesnt believe Ferguson - who is coming off of surgery to repair a torn LCL - will be healthy by the fall but if El Cucuy is, he would be happy to defend his belt against whoever the UFC wants him to.
About Tony Ferguson, I dont know, Nurmagomedov said. He just had surgery. If he can, why not? Tony Ferguson is biggest match-up for me. This match what I want, what people want, what fans want but I dont know about his healthy. If hes ready, lets go. Why not? Im ready for September, Im ready for October, Im training all the time. Im here to defend my title. If the UFC gives me any opponent, Im ready for this, to beat this guy.
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been scheduled to face each other four times before but the snakebitten fight has still yet to happen. The last time the fight fell through was UFC 223 when Ferguson injured himself just days before the event, creating a scenario where instead of facing Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title, Nurmagomedov faced Al Iaquinta, winning the belt via dominant decision. And while Nurmagomedov is willing to try and make the fifth time the charm, it sounds like the lightweight champ would rather settle his differences with the biggest money fight in the game - if McGregor is finally ready to step up.
If they want to make make money, lets go, Nurmagomedov said. Khabib vs. Conor, country vs. country, fans vs. fans. Its gonna be very big, one of the biggest - I think biggest match-up in UFC history, me vs. Conor. Without bus, without other things, we just have to fight but I dont think the UFC can make the decision about this fight. About this fight, I think only Conor can make this decision. If he wants to lose and make money, he has to say yes and sign this contract and come back because people forget about when he fought last time.
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