Unbeaten UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov has revealed his plans for the year 2017 as a whole and if I’m completely honest, he may well be expecting a bit too much, all things considered.
Picture the scene. It’s pre-UFC 209 and the card’s co-main event features a contest between two of the most electric contenders the lightweight division has ever seen in Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In Ferguson, you had an Ultimate Fighter winner who after winning the show at welterweight, dropped down to the 155lb division and had racked up an impressive nine wins on the trot ever since his sole loss in the organisation to the quick-handed Michael Johnson.
Nurmagomedov represented a complex puzzle that 24 men had so far failed to crack. In the upper-echelons of the MMA world, no one competing at this level in the UFC had managed to maintain a perfect, unbeaten record and with him firmly established as the lightweight division’s number-1 contender, the sky seemed to be the limit for this devastatingly destructive Dagestani.
People were calling it the greatest lightweight fight ever scheduled and despite it being billed one spot below the show’s main event, the true fans of MMA knew exactly what they were investing their money in when they purchased the pay-per-view.
So when the Russian Khabib was forced to pull out of the contest just hours before it was set to take place due to issues with his weight-cut, it was one hell of a bitter pill for us all to swallow.
Injuries happen and illnesses are pretty much beyond a fighter’s control but in this case, the gargantuan amount of weight that Nurmagomedov was cutting to reach the 155lb limit and the way that he went about cutting said weight made all excuses that were given as an explanation redundant.
UFC 209 went ahead as planned but the shadow of this eagerly anticipated showdown loomed large throughout, something that was not helped by the fact that this was, in fact, the third time that Ferguson and Nurmagomedov had been scheduled to meet inside the octagon.
Ferguson, of course, was left opponentless but for many, his reputation remained entirely intact due to his professionalism in making weight and the class shown by him in his reaction to this unfortunate turn of events. Khabib, however, instantly became a target within social media circles and even from some fellow fighters, all of whom felt that his neglect had not only robbed many fans of their hard-earned money, but also of a potentially thrilling contest.
Now, with UFC 209 long-gone, Khabib posted a cryptic tweet hinting at his return, something that earned him nothing but abuse from those MMA fans who were not ready to let the memories of the cancelled interim-title bout and his failed weight-cut slip away.
It's a matter of time
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) May 22, 2017
Despite this, Khabib – in an interview with ToFight.ru (via the Star) revealed that his next move would be to push for what we can only assume is another contest with his longtime would-be dance partner Ferguson, again for the interim-lightweight title, making it the fourth time that this contest would be scheduled.
“Regarding health – I have nearly completed rehabilitation. I will start to train somewhere in the middle of June. The return is planned for October because I need four months of full training.”
“As for the match, I think, that 90 percent I will fight for the interim title.”
It’s a tough sell, it really is. There’s only so much patience you can demand of the fans of this sport given the extensive time it takes to set up, announce and promote these contests but if we do, in fact, give this bout another go while the undisputed champion Conor McGregor is on hiatus, I doubt many would be opposed to actually seeing this fight become a reality.
We just need to get both men in there first.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena