Nurmagomedov’s agent Ali Abdelaziz spoke to ESPN and broke down the lightweight champion’s intentions over the course of the next year: three fights, with one against a future UFC Hall of Famer:
"He gave me very specific instructions," Abdelaziz told ESPN. "He said he wants to fight Sept. 7 and again in December. And if [former welterweight champion] Georges St-Pierre can figure things out with the UFC by April, that's the deal. He would like that fight in April."
Three fights over the course of 11 months is obviously a pie-in-the-sky hope, as that would require perfect health and everything to go as planned in order to fit that many fights in such a small time frame. It’s not impossible, it’s just important to remember we’re dealing with Nurmagomedov’s hopes here, not a concrete plan.
One of the larger obstacles to those hopes is that St-Pierre retired in February. That was despite a public plea from Nurmagomedov, who said he grew up watching the Canadian fighter and seems to hold him in very high regard. St-Pierre was also reportedly interested in a fight, but the UFC didn’t seem interested in a fight that could possibly lead to someone winning the belt then retiring again.
Who else could Khabib fight?
As for the fights in September and December, we already know one very likely opponent.
Dustin Poirier captured the UFC interim lightweight belt with his defeat of Max Holloway last month in an absolute classic. That fight was essentially to decide Nurmagomedov’s first opponent after his suspension, and a lightweight unification bout at UFC 242 on Sept. 7 seems to be the plan.
The December fight seems much less certain. The UFC could try to, finally, get Nurmagomedov and No. 2 lightweight contender Tony Ferguson in the ring. That matchup has been scheduled and abruptly canceled four different times in the past, so maybe fifth time’s the charm. A champ-vs.-champ fight with Holloway could be another possibility.
One fighter Abdelaziz went out of his way to rule out was Conor McGregor. A Nurmagomedov-McGregor rematch would be huge for obvious reasons, but Nurmagomedov’s camp seems to think the Irishman needs to take another fight before he gets another shot at the lightweight belt:
"To be honest, Conor is going to have to go out there and fight somebody like Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson or Cowboy [Donald Cerrone]," Abdelaziz said. "He's not a worthy enough opponent right now. That's the feeling from all of us, as a team."
Between their UFC 229 fracas and a profoundly ugly spat on social media, there is no love lost between McGregor and Nurmagomedov. McGregor has expressed interest in a rematch going back to October, but it’s looking pretty likely that he’ll have to find a new opponent before going back to Nurmagomedov.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped Vegas from posting odds on the potential fight.
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