Khabib Nurmagomedov is regarded as one of the best fighters in the UFC, but this weekend he will take on one of the biggest challenges of his career. Khabib will take on Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, with the winner becoming the unified champion in the lightweight division.
The Russian is already the outright favourite in the odds, which means that gamblers making wagers on him in their UFC predictions will not get the most lucrative odds. But, should the odds be correct and Khabib wins on Saturday evening, who could we see the Russian defend his championship against first?
One of the names at the very front of that queue will be Michael Chandler, who has recently signed with the UFC after a hugely successful career in Bellator. Chandler and Khabib have already exchanged words, which could mean that a potential bout between the two may be an easy sell. The former Bellator star won the Lightweight Championship in that company on three occasions, and there’s no doubting his wrestling ability, which he proved at college level.
Chandler’s final fight in Bellator saw him beat Benson Henderson by knockout and the anticipation is already growing as a first fight in UFC could be booked before too long. But, could that be against Khabib?
Tony Ferguson hasn’t been shy for a couple of words in the direction of Khabib over recent weeks, and he has already claimed that he will be demanding a title fight against whoever wins the bout at UFC 254. Ferguson is still regarded as one of the best fighters in the company, as is rated as the 14th best pound-for-pound fighter.
He is also seen as the third best fighter in the lightweight rankings. It almost seemed destined that we were going to get Ferguson against Khabib at this event, but the 36-year-old was shockingly beaten by Gaethje in an outcome that not many saw coming. That defeat ended a run of 12 straight wins for Ferguson, and he is already gunning to get back into the octagon. He will likely have a thing or two to say about the outcome of this fight this weekend.
The rumours surrounding a potential rematch between Conor McGregor and Khabib refuse to go away, which means that it could still be a fight that we see happen at some point. McGregor looks set to fight Dustin Poirier in January next year, and the Irishman has already claimed that he will be targeting a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao after that.
That means that fitting in a fight with Khabib may be challenging, but McGregor has so often changed his targets depending on where the money is, and there’s no doubt that this rematch against Khabib would be a money-spinning event. Their first fight broke MMA box office records as there were 2.4 million tuned in to watch the Russian claim the UFC Lightweight Championship. Chances of a rematch seem slim, but that could always change.