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Coach: Sean O’Malley vs. Umar Nurmagomedov ‘could be as big as Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov’

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UFC Fight Night: Nurmagomedov v Barcelos Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Sean O’Malley may be the present at Bantamweight in Ultimate Fighting Championship as the Bantamweight champion, but Umar Nurmagomedov might be the future.

Any fighter with the last name “Nurmagomedov” instantly stands out in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world and the “Young Eagle” is no different. The undefeated 16-0 Nurmagomedov is currently on a similar trajectory to be the next version of his legendary cousin, the former UFC Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. So much so that several elite-level 135-pound fighters expect him to be a champion one day.

American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) head coach, Javier Mendez, is no stranger to ultra-talented world champions, and having worked with both Nurmagomedovs, sees a future where a similar rivalry to Khabib’s with Conor McGregor plays out at Bantamweight.

“I think Umar and Sean could be as big as McGregor and Khabib, but the only thing is Sean O’Malley has more class than McGregor. He won’t bring religion, country, and family into the picture," Mendez told Lord Ping. "I don’t think Sean would go that low. I think he will keep it between him and Umar and leave it at that. Let the fighters talk crap, but leave family, leave the country, leave religion out of it.”

Nurmagomedov’s Lightweight title tilt with McGregor in October 2018 was one of the most heated match ups in the sport’s history, resulting in the largest pay-per-view (PPV_ of all time with 2.4 million buys. In the end, Nurmagomedov bested the Irishman via a fourth round neck crank.

Umar, 27, was slated for the biggest fight of his career against Cory Sandhagen at UFC Nashville this past month (Aug. 5, 2023). Unfortunately for him, he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him out of the bout. His last win came impressively, finishing Raoni Barcelos with a first round technical knockout in January 2023. Mendez expects his new star pupil to be returning around the start of 2024.

“I’m hoping Umar can get cleared to train in late December or early January, that’s the timeframe I’m looking at," Mendez said. "He could train now, but there’s limitations on what he can do. Once he’s back we can look at fights. I want a top-five guy, I don’t care who it is. It’s about Umar getting the challenges he needs to get to the title. If it’s Cory Sandhagen, great. If it’s someone else great. Unfortunately, it’s up to the UFC who they give you. We don’t get much of a choice. We may ask but if we don’t we will get it.”

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