Potential options for Khabib Nurmagomedov if he leaves UFC

So many companies and organisations are looking to jump in the bandwagon that Khabib Nurmagomedov has built following his impressive performance in UFC 229. With an apparent fallout with the Universal Fighting Championship brass, many are hoping to bring in the lightweight champion to boost their roster. If Nurmagomedov and the UFC decide to part ways, where is the most ideal place for the Dagestan superstar to land?

Nurgmagomedov’s meteoric rise came due to many factors. Before his UFC 229 bout against Conor McGregor, the Russian was touted as a 26-0 champion but had many doubters due to the towering shadow that McGregor left in the company.

However, it only took four brutal rounds for the now 27-0 champion to show he is clearly the better in-ring fighter, securing a neck crank to make the proud Irishman tap.

The event’s eventual fallout may have actually done Nurmagomedov a lot of good as well as he has been shot up to the spotlight and is now hailed as a superstar outside the UFC world.

At the moment, it is well-documented that Nurmagomedov and the UFC are at odds, with the former threatening to walk away. Here are some of the possible scenarios for Nurmagomedov moving forward.

 

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I would like to address @ufc Why didn’t you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started. In any case, punish me, @zubairatukhugov has nothing to do with that. If you think that I’ll keep silent then you are mistaken. You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself. And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers

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BELLATOR

Naturally, the first fighting organisation that comes to mind outside of the UFC is its rival company, Bellator.

The Viacom-owned mixed martial arts promotion still has a few ways to go to realistically compete with the UFC in terms of market size, but they are still steadily gaining ground and have a relatively impressive roster of fighters available to them.

Recently, hip-hop artist and businessman 50 Cent went through social media to approach Nurmagomedov on a possible move to Bellator – offering $2million for him to jump ship.

In a stunning turn of events, the Dagestan fighter even replied and showed interest in the possible move.

Courtesy of 50 Cent

If, at some point, talks begin to materialise and Nurmagomedov sees himself with Bellator, he will certainly face a number of fighters out to give him a rude welcome in the promotion.

There are names that could make for entertaining fights, with current lightweight champion Brent Primus as the first name to come to mind in a “champion versus champion” set-up. Both fighters are currently unbeaten, through Primus has significantly less fights at 8-0, with a 6-0 Bellator record.

Another fighter that should be interesting to watch compete against Nurmagomedov, if he does land in Bellator, is Michael Chandler. The American has always been one to engage in exciting fights and the former two-time lightweight champion should have enough weapons to make it competitive.

ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Easily the biggest MMA promotion in Asia, ONE Championship is also a possible destination for Nurmagomedov to call home if he so pleases.

Founded in 2011, the company HQ is in Singapore and has consistently improved their shows as they remain active within the circles of Asia – and they are also steadily gaining popularity among Western fans as well.

Already a superstar all over the globe, Nurmagomedov will certainly be the company’s face and ambassador if he chooses to sign with ONE Championship. It will definitely be a big boost for the promotion and Nurmagomedov will certainly be lifted to an even high status especially in the Asian market.

The company has signed big stars like current heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, Japanese legend Shinya Aoki, Brazilian superstar Bibiano Fernandes and US Olympian Ben Askren. The company certainly has aspirations to go big and bringing in Nurmagomedov will certainly fit that bill.

In terms of competition, since Nurmagomedov competes at 155lbs in the UFC he may slot in the company’s featherweight division which has a 154.3lb limit. Its current champion is Australian star Martin Nguyen and a fight between the two should be action-packed as well. Coincidentally, Nguyen (11-3 record) is ONE Championship’s featherweight and lightweight champion.

Given Nurmagomedov’s history of beating two-division title holders, another clash with a world-class opponent who holds the same distinction makes it very interesting to watch. Furthermore, the Russian can easily make the lightweight cutoff in ONE Championship, 169.8lbs, so battling against Nguyen makes sense.

If he goes through Nguyen, Nurmagomedov will not have a shortage of opponents as ONE Championship can set-up a superfight as bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes may go up in weight in order to take a crack at the unbeaten fighter.

M-1 GLOBAL

Now that he’s a hot commodity and a well-known MMA personality around the globe, Nurmagomedov definitely has nothing left to prove. With that in mind, going back home to help promote M-1 Global may be another option for him if he decides to leave the UFC.

Founded in 1997, M-1 Global is based in Russia and if Nurmagomedov decides to go back home to help promote the brand, he will further establish his position as a legend in the country – much like famed fighter Fedor Emelianenko.

Nurmagomedov has competed in M-1 Global in the earlier stages of his career, beating the likes of Shahbulat Shamhalaev, Vitaliy Ostrovskiy and Alexander Agafonov along the way.

At the moment, the M-1 Global has the lightweight championship vacant following Damir Ismagulov departure to sign with the UFC. If Nurmagomedov steps in, he can easily fight for the title based on his pedigree and accomplishments alone.

There might be a lack of big names currently on the roster for Nurmagomedov to fight, but bringing him in will definitely increase M-1 Global’s brand reach.

WWE

Despite it not being a mixed martial arts promotion, including the World Wrestling Entertainment as a possible destination is not far off.

In fact, Nurmagomedov recently revealed that the sports-entertainment company approached him for a possible deal and given the company’s deep pockets, they may just have enough to lure him to make a big-money move.

There are also talks that the WWE keep declining in views so they are throwing their name in Nurmagomedov’s list of options as his arrival will easily turn many heads back to watch how his career unfolds in professional wrestling.

Given Nurmagomedov’s weight, he is likely to be injected in the company’s cruiserweight division where athletes are near his size and are swift and agile. Nurmagomedov will undoubtedly play the role of torch-bearer in the division as it is still in need of a definite push.

If the WWE brass decide to bring him to the main roster, Nurmagomedov definitely needs to bulk up and create a persona that will keep him entertaining when the shock value fades.

UFC

Last but certainly not the least, we have to include the UFC in the list as Nurmagomedov is still contractually obligated.

Unless White opts to end his contract, or the Russian chooses to breach it, then the best that Nurmagomedov can do is to ride out the remaining fights in his contract before he can really decide to move on from the company.

Once the tension dies down, the best fights for the lightweight champion are still within the company, with Tony Ferguson being the top-of-mind choice.

A battle against “El Cucuy” should be entertaining given Ferguson’s relentless approach to a fight and how he knows he can take punishment en route to a victory.

There are also intriguing fights for Nurmagomedov like facing Nate Diaz in the future, or battling prospects like Dustin Poirier.

Brian Ortega, who fights in the featherweight division at the moment can always return to 155lbs to face Nurmagomedov. With a 14-0-1 record, Ortega is also unbeaten and many are actually excited about the possibility of their fight.

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