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Delayed! Khabib Nurmagomedov return to UFC on hold until December

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Esteemed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight contender and formidable grappler Khabib Nurmagomedov does not appear to be ready for a return to combat sports after having surgery on his knee back in May.

The undefeated Judo black belt was not cleared by his doctor to resume training and will instead begin six weeks of rehab work before a targeted return in December, according to UFC Tonight (via MMA Fighting).

Since blowing out his knee last April, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) star cornered his brother in what was a successful World Series of Fighting (WSOF) debut (more on that here), before getting into a brawl with the bad boys of mixed martial arts (MMA), the Diaz brothers.

UFC President Dana White has remained quiet as to whether "The Eagle" will face disciplinary action for his role in the brawl, which appeared to be bolstered by older brother Nick, causing some of the fighting to spill out into the lobby of Planet Hollywood in "Sin City" last Saturday night (Aug. 1), leading to this call-out by Khabib.

Any action by White would be a considerable setback for the No. 3 ranked lightweight, who has already gone 14 months without stepping into the Octagon. When he went down inside the "stone age" AKA gym, Khabib also missed out on facing streaking lightweight Donald Cerrone in a 155-pound title eliminator at UFC 187 earlier this year.

Now, with Cerrone poised to face champion Rafael dos Anjos at a date yet to be determined, Khabib is forced to sit out of the lightweight title sweepstakes for a few more months. When he returns, however, the 26-year-old wrestler could have his pick of the litter.

Whether it be former lightweight kingpin Anthony Pettis, or "sucker" Nate Diaz, Khabib will have no shortage of potential return opponents in the stacked upper echelon at 155 pounds.

However, it appears he has backtracked on his desire to fight the Stockton slugger Diaz (via Bloody Elbow), saying that, "I will accept the challenge only against the best athletes."

Other successful fighters in the division, who would make for a suitable match up with the ground general, are Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, and the winner of Michael Johnson vs. Beneil Dariush, who collide this Saturday night (more on that card here).

Each fighter is -- and would be -- coming off an important win and possesses the boxing, kickboxing, and-or ground skills to test the Sambo master.

I think the fight to make, based off rankings and marketing, is with Anthony Pettis. With "Showtime" out a while, and eager to reclaim gold, Khabib represents the best path to do that. For Khabib, it is another obstacle to knock down and pummel to earn a coveted title shot.

Anyone have a better idea?