After 16 months on the sidelines with injuries, top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is gearing up for his much-anticipated return to the Octagon.
However, much has changed in UFC's 155-pound division since "The Eagle" last competed. Perhaps the biggest change is that Rafael dos Anjos -- the last man Nurmagomedov fought and defeated -- is now the division champion after he smashed Anthony Pettis at UFC 185.
Dos Anjos will next defend his belt against Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC on FOX 17, which is set for Dec. 17, 2015, in Orlando, Florida (details). And that's just when Nurmagomedov wants to make his return, informing Bleacher Report that he would love to fight "Showtime" on the card.
In fact, Nurmagomedov revealed he and "Showtime" had a face-to-face conversation recently about a potential scrap.
"Anthony Pettis and I did have a conversation and we both want the fight. I gave [an] interview before and [said] we [met] in a bus, and we did, but I don't think it came out right. All the fighters there were going to a meeting and we all got on the bus to go there. Pettis and I sat down together and I asked him when he was going to come back. He told me the end of the year. I told him I could come back in October or November, but if the UFC [says], 'You come back in December and fight Anthony Pettis,' I can wait. I think everyone will agree with me that a fight between Pettis and I would be the biggest fight in the lightweight division right now. This fight would be bigger than Cowboy vs. RDA because RDA [smashed] him before. If the UFC put me and Pettis in the co-main event in Orlando in December, I believe that would be the real main event fight for the fans. I don't know what the UFC plans to do, but this is what I think the fans want."
In a not-so surprising coincidence "Showtime" recently declared that he, too, is targeting a return to the Octagon in December, specifically UFC on FOX 17.
If that match up does not come to fruition, then Nurmagomedov has no problem "smashing" Nate Diaz, especially following their unsanctioned street brawl at a recent World Series of Fighting (WSOF) event (see it here).
"If the UFC gives me that fight, I'm happy to do it because I want to smash this guy. I want to take him down, smash his face with hard elbows and knock him out. I have to teach this guy respect. He started a fight with me at [WSOF] and there were a lot of women and children in the crowd. We are professional fighters and we are supposed to stay professional. I know sometimes you get emotional, but you have to stay professional. If someone wants to punch you and wants to smash you, then you have to protect yourself and that's why I [fought] with him at [the] show. In the arena, I told myself to stay calm and not to fight. I kept calm and professional, but the second time he started a fight, I went crazy too. It was me and my team and him and his, but after his team started running, a lot of police came. I didn't start the fight. He started it, but I have to protect myself. I'm a professional fighter. I'm a UFC fighter and I can kill someone in the street. I could do it easily if I had to, but we are supposed to be professional. The skills we know aren't supposed to be used that way, and that's why we have to always be professional because this is very dangerous. If the UFC gives me the chance to fight him inside the Octagon, I will do it because he needs to be taught a lesson."
As a result of the brawls, Diaz -- and his older brother Nick Diaz -- are now banned from attending future WSOF events.
Going back to sanctioned fights, a showdown between Nurmagomedov and Pettis does seem ideal. And having it go down as co-main event to the 155-pound title fight makes all the sense in the world.
Especially if one of the headliners happens to suffer an injury.