Khabib Nurmagomedov’s coach at AKA, Javier Mendez, has ranked the four fighters he considers to be the biggest threats to his fighter at present.
Not seen in action since his dominant display against the former divisional champion Conor McGregor back at UFC 229, it does appear as though Nurmagomedov will make his return to the octagon this year.
Injuries stunted his progress significantly during his original run at the belt and now, due to the now infamous post-fight skirmish that came upon him defeating McGregor – he has been unable to capitalise on – and in some ways discover – the extent of his newfound star-power.
It’s hard to know exactly how much Nurmagomedov’s stock has grown in the last few months given his close association with the sport’s biggest star but thankfully, with a return now seemingly set for September, a lot of our burning questions will soon be answered.
Speaking in a recent interview with SportsDaily.ru, AKA coach Javier Mendez broke down the four greatest dangers to his fighter ahead of what should be a very, very interesting second-half of 2019.
“Talking about four potential rivals for Khabib I can give my assessment from the [least] dangerous to the most dangerous.
“Max Holloway [would] be the easiest for Khabib. Max has good boxing but it lacks the power to the lightweight division.
“Next on the list is Dustin Poirier. He’s got stamina and versatility.
“Tony Ferguson is my second choice. His elbows are very dangerous.
“And finally [the] number one contender for me is still Conor. His boxing is special, that’s his chance.” (via MMA News).
Right now, despite no official confirmation, it does appear as though UFC 242 will showcase the lightweight title-unification showdown between Khabib and the newly-crowned interim-champ Dustin Poirier.
And while there’s every chance that each of the men mentioned by Mendez above ends up across from Nurmagomedov before all is said and done, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would consider any of them the betting favourite.
The Khabib-era of the UFC’s lightweight division was one that was long in the making and now that it is here, it really will take something special to end it.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena