So, we all have just witnessed UFC 242, the event marked the return of the UFC in Abu Dhabi and in the main event we saw Khabib ‘The Eagle’, Nurmagomedov defeat Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier by Rear Naked Choke in the third round. Most MMA fans out there will be wondering what is next for Khabib. And that’s what I’ll answer.
Khabib has some choices. He is constantly being asked about a rematch with ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor and has previously spoken about a possible retirement from the sport altogether. Khabib thankfully doesn’t want either, and on Friday during the UFC 242 media call he told the world that he wants. “Only Tony Ferguson I think deserves. Who else, nobody!” This sentiment that Tony was a deserving foe was continued further with Dustin who went on to say that Tony should be the next challenger for the belt, which is true given that Tony is on a 12 fight win streak. So, it makes sense that Tony Ferguson is next for Khabib.
Nurmagomedov v Ferguson is a fight that we all want but has never happened…yet. It’s not as if Dana never booked it because he has, FOUR TIMES! The first fight was scheduled for ‘The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale’ (12/12/15), the eagle pulled out with a rib injury. Edson Barboza stepped in and got submitted in the second round in an all out war of attrition with ‘El Cuccy’. The second fight was scheduled for ‘UFC on Fox 19’ (17/04/16). This time Ferguson pulled out with a lung issue. Khabib would go on that night to fight against Darrell Horcher and he won the bout by securing a TKO victory in the second round.
The third time the fight was scheduled was the closest we ever got to it happening. Just hours before the Friday weigh-ins for ‘UFC 209’ (05/03/17). Khabib was rushed to hospital. The doctors told him that he could not fight. With it being so close to the event Ferguson was not able to find a replacement opponent so he did not fight on the card. The most recent attempt at putting the super-clash together was at ‘UFC 223’ (08/04/18). For the second time Ferguson pulled out of the fight, this time it was due to a knee injury sustained from tripping on a cable. The ‘Cable’ incident is now an infamous moment in the MMA history books. The Dagestani stayed on the card though, and successfully defended his lightweight belt against ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta winning by way of a decision. It was tumultuous week then all round for Khabib, that week he was booked to fight featherweight King Holloway, then Paul Felder and finally being matched up with Al on just one days notice.
As previously said, Khabib wants Tony & Tony wants Khabib. This has been evident with Tony’s activity on Twitter. For the past two Tuesdays, Tony has been tweeting about Khabib. He posted two videos, one of them showing himself beating up Khabib and the other video is of him giving Khabib a tiramisu. Both tweets mention #TiramisuTuesdsy a reference to Khabib being unwell due to the weight cut. Tony has also been exchanging tweets with Ali Abdelaziz, Khabib’s manager. Tony has been doing well to keep himself in Khabib’s view and to suck the limelight in an era where social media activity is vital to keeping the fans interested in the potential fight.
Finally, the most likely reason for this fight to happen is that it will make Dana and the UFC a lot of money. Both Tony and Khabib have a massive fan base, whose supporters want to see this fight more than anything else, UFC fans and fighters are dying to see the super-fight happen. The continued cancellations too have only built and engendered anticipation for the fight. We know that Dana likes to make money and this fight will generate a ton of money. It’s been booked four times before, why not book it for the fifth time and give everyone what they want!