Despite winning the UFC lightweight championship earlier this month at UFC 223 and competing in one of the deepest divisions in mixed martial arts (MMA), undefeated Russian sensation Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t really have too many options for his first title defense.
With former interim champion Tony Ferguson nursing a nasty knee injury and promotional superstar Conor McGregor battling legal issues following his throwdown with a Brooklyn bus, “Eagle” may not get the fight he’s ultimately looking for.
However, the dominant Russian champion is still holding out hope that “Notorious” will return to action this year, especially with talks already swirling between all parties involved.
“We’re talking, but if it takes too long, I don’t want to do that,” Nurmagomedov said during a Q&A event earlier this week in Russia (h/t MMANytt). “If he wants to fight this year, then we can fight. Otherwise, I don’t know. We won’t wait long. I want to fight Conor and if he can fight, I will fight him.”
If McGregor is unable to step foot back inside of the Octagon in 2018, and “El Cucuy” doesn’t pull of a Wolverine recovery, Nurmagomedov’s options are thin. When discussing a potential clash with former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, who recently said he’s the worst matchup in the division for “Eagle,” Nurmagomedov didn’t seem all that interested.
“There is Tony Ferguson, but I don’t think he is going to fight soon,” Nurmagomedov said. “Then there is Alvarez, He wants to fight, but there’s something missing. He may or may not know this, but I’ll tell him to go take a hike.”
Of course, there is always Dustin Poirier, who put a stamp on his rising lightweight stock earlier this month with a fourth-round TKO victory over madman Justin Gaethje at UFC on FOX 29.
But if the MMA gods work their magic and McGregor is legally able to return to competition this year, fight fans will get the matchup of a lifetime. The fact that Nurmagomedov’s team is already in discussions for the massive title fight (possibly in Russia) adds fuel to an already towering inferno.