Khabib Nurmagomedov’s solidarity with his teammates might result in the UFC crowing an interim lightweight champion in his absence.
After the Nevada State Athletic Commission handed Abubaker Nurmagomedov and Zubaira Tukhugov one year suspensions for their roles in the UFC 229 post fight brawl, the undefeated Russian champion proclaimed that he would not fight again until they were eligible to return.
Nurmagomedov received a nine month suspension for his role in instigating the brawl but it appears he’s willing to sit out an extra three months to serve a full one year sentence alongside his teammates.
If Nurmagomedov actually stays out until after October, that means the lightweight title will have gone dormant for an entire year.
On Saturday night at the UFC 234 post-fight press conference, Dana White addressed what might happen if Nurmagomedov follows through with his promise to miss the majority of 2019.
“Guys can’t sit out and wait that long when you have the title,” the UFC president stated. “You can’t do it. So if that’s true and he’s going to do that, then we’d have to figure out something else and you start looking at whether it’s Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson or one of these other guys.
“When opportunity knocks, answer the door. We’ll see how this thing plays out.”
White said earlier in the week that he still hadn’t spoken directly to Nurmagomedov about his plans for the rest of the year so nothing is set in stone just yet.
Still, White seems adamant that the UFC won’t put the lightweight division or the top contenders on hold waiting for the Russian champion to return.
For the past few weeks, McGregor has been rumored for a summer showdown against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone but those plans could obviously change if the UFC opts to put him in against Ferguson with an interim title on the line.
Dustin Poirier is also in the mix after his recent run where he’s knocked out Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis during a current three fight win streak.
Obviously, nothing has been decided yet but it seems like White is ready to move forward with an alternate plan if Nurmagomedov won’t be around to defend his title any time soon.