While the UFC lightweight title picture remains murky, things at least are starting to come into focus.
Let’s start with two important developments.First, RT Sport reported today, citing venue officials, that the UFC has booked Moscow’s Olympic Stadium for Sept. 14 and 15 to bring an event to Russia for the first time. If that happens, there’s no doubt the plan would be to have Khabib Nurmagomedov, a bona fide star in his home country, included on the card.
There’s also talk of UFC 223 coming to Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 7. Although nothing is official, a person with knowledge of the situation has told MMAjunkie that is the plan. This matters to Nurmagomedov’s more immediate future, because Brooklyn’s large Russian population and the promotion’s desire to bring a major headliner to the Big Apple make UFC 223 perfect for his next booking.It’s also important to note that the two planned events coincide with his desired fight schedule for 2018. Following his UFC 219 dismantling of Edson Barboza less than two weeks ago, Nurmagomedov said he wanted three fights in 2018: once before May, followed by September and December. A devout Muslim, Nurmagomedov won’t fight during Ramadan, which begins May 15.When you consider all of that, UFC President Dana White’s recent assessment of the lightweight title picture surrounding champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC), interim titleholder Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) makes complete sense.
As long as Conor is willing to fight by March, we could do Khabib vs. Tony and then the winner fights Conor for the title, White told Yahoo! Sports earlier this month. Or, if Conor wants to sit out until next fall, then wed have to make Khabib vs. Tony for the title not the interim title.The recent announcement of a featherweight title fight headliner between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar for UFC 222 on March 3 in Las Vegas obviously means McGregor, who hasn’t fought MMA since winning his belt in November 2016, isn’t coming back by then. And since we haven’t heard anything to indicate otherwise, a McGregor return in April also seems like a stretch.
What looks probable at least to me is McGregor sits out until the fall as White hinted at, is stripped of his title, and Ferguson defends the undisputed championship against Nurmagomedov at UFC 223. The outcome would directly impact the potential Russia event in September.
Win or lose, you’d expect Nurmagomedov to fight in Russia regardless. A win over Ferguson, though, would likely all but guarantee McGregor’s return for a showdown with Nurmagomedov in Russia, something White told MMAjunkie last year was on McGregor’s radar.
We’re not quite there yet, but the definitive answers to the burning questions surrounding the UFC lightweight title picture should be coming soon.For more on the UFCs upcoming schedule, check out theUFC Rumorssection of the site.
More UFC Articles
- Ex-WWE star Jake Hager on joining Bellator: 'No big reward comes without a big risk' 3 mins, 56 sec ago 0
- Broadcast lineup set for UFC on FOX 27 with Jon Anik, Dominick Cruz on the call 54 mins, 8 sec ago 1
- Here's the official poster for UFC 222, featuring Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar 1 hours, 53 mins ago 1
- UFC 220 'Fight Motion': Stipe Miocic's domination of Francis Ngannou in super-slow-mo glory 2 hours, 34 mins ago 3
- Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton official for Bellator 194 – and future boxing match 3 hours, 3 mins ago 2
- UFC on FOX 27 main-event breakdown: Will Derek Brunson avenge his loss to 'Jacare' Souza? 4 hours, 3 mins ago 3
- Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier 4 hours, 34 mins ago 3
- Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2604 with Eryk Anders, Curtis Millender 4 hours, 34 mins ago 2
- Bellator 193 main-event breakdown: Will Lorenz Larkin's struggles continue? 5 hours, 23 mins ago 2
- Maryna Moroz meets Angela Hill at UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando 5 hours, 23 mins ago 7
- Austin Arnett vs. Cory Sandhagen added to UFC on FOX 27 in Charlotte 6 hours, 4 mins ago 3
- UFC's best striker? No one has higher rating than Conor McGregor in 'EA UFC 3' 6 hours, 54 mins ago 3
- Cris Cyborg now says she'll fight Amanda Nunes in UFC champ vs. champ fight in July 7 hours, 34 mins ago 3
- Ex-champ Fabricio Werdum still thinks he should be next in line for title: 'I deserve this' 8 hours, 23 mins ago 6
- Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz set for UFC 223 9 hours, 4 mins ago 2
- Here's video of MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa schooling a male internet troll on the mats 18 hours, 14 mins ago 10
- UFC 223 opening odds: Joanna Jedrzejczyk favored vs. champ Rose Namajunas, despite KO loss 19 hours, 34 mins ago 9
- MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for UFC on FOX 27 in Charlotte 20 hours, 34 mins ago 4
- UFC champ Daniel Cormier insists he'll retire in March 2019 21 hours, 54 mins ago 6
- Scott Coker on Cris Cyborg's attendance at Bellator 192: Nothing to see here 22 hours, 4 mins ago 11