Khabib Nurmagomedov is just days removed from becoming the undisputed UFC lightweight champion but he’s already looking ahead at what comes next.
While Nurmagomedov will be observing Ramadan starting in mid-May, the new king at 155 pounds hopes to make his return to action in November with a pair of top ranked lightweights at the top of his wish list.
At a Q&A held with students in Moscow on Thursday, Nurmagomedov revealed that he’s targeting a fight with either former champion Conor McGregor or top five ranked fighter Dustin Poirier for his return to action later this yaer.
“I don’t have an opponent at this point,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t know who I’m going to fight. It’s up to [the UFC], whoever they assign. I’ll just fight whoever they give me. There are two opponents. Tony [Ferguson] is out so there’s Conor [McGregor] and if it’s not Conor McGregor then Dustin Poirier. Otherwise, there are no challengers.”
Ferguson recently underwent knee surgery to repair damage that kept him from fighting Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in early April. It seems he’s going to be sidelined for several months, which then opens the door for either McGregor or Poirier to land the title shot.
Of course, McGregor would have to be considered the frontrunner for both the UFC and Nurmagomedov considering he is the former lightweight champion and obviously brings the most value to any card he’s on.
It’s likely a Nurmagomedov-McGregor headlining card would be expected to do well over a million pay-per-view buys, especially in a marquee location like the rumored UFC card in November at Madison Square Garden in New York.
First things first, McGregor has to come to an agreement on a new deal with the UFC and he’s still facing several charges in New York stemming from his outburst in Brooklyn where he assaulted a bus and left two fighters and a UFC employee injured as a result.
McGregor faces three misdemeanor assault charges and one felony criminal mischief charge and while it’s not likely that he’ll do any jail time, it could still tie him up in the court system for most of 2018.
As for Poirier, he’s coming off a ‘Fight of the Year’ performance against Justin Gaethje from this past weekend where he knocked out the former World Series of Fighting champion in the fourth round.
Poirier has been very vocal about landing a title shot ever since that fight while telling MMAWeekly that he loves the way he matches up with Nurmagomedov should the square off in a five round battle.
“I feel like my wrestling is very underrated. My jiu-jitsu can cause some threats. I feel like I match up well with him. I think I’m the guy to do it,” Poirier said.
One thing’s for sure, Nurmagomedov doesn’t plan on fighting again until at least November no matter what opponent is on the table for him.
“I said I would like to have a fight in November. Not before that, not later than that,” Nurmagomedov said. “November if they give me New York.”