On October 24th, 2020, Khabib Nurmagomedov extended his unbeaten professional record to 29 wins and zero defeats following his second-round submission of Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Although the Eagle’s grappling-oriented style divides opinions, few can argue that he isn’t the most dominant fighter in the history of the UFC.
While other competitors have more title defenses than the Russian, nobody else has enjoyed similar round-on-round success. As per The Ringer, in 60 rounds, the retired sambo specialist officially lost just two rounds in his career, which is a phenomenal achievement. Recently, however, he’s been tipped to make a return to the Octagon. So, let’s take a look at whether or not he should fight again.
Picking Bouts That Make Sense
After picking apart Gaethje in his latest (and potentially last) title defense, Khabib climbed to the top of the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings. Although this decision wasn’t well-received by Jon Jones, there can be no doubt that Khabib has been tested at the highest level of combat sports in an unprecedented manner. Despite his post-fight retirement – in which he cited a promise to his mother as the reason for walking away from the sport – his manager has hinted that a comeback may be on the cards. On Twitter, and according to Essentially Sports, Ali Abdelaziz simply tweeted “30-0”. This, of course, implies that the Eagle may be targeting one final fight.
Upon looking at the current outlook of the lightweight division, few contests make too much sense for Khabib. Having just beaten Gaethje and Dustin Poirier in his last two fights, he’ll unlikely be tempted by rematches at this stage of his career. If that’s the case, it may also have implications regarding another bout with Conor McGregor. While the match-up would make sense from a business standpoint, there are debates over whether the first meeting between the pair was competitive enough to warrant a rematch.
It’s All About Legacy Now
Should Khabib be selective for his 30th professional fight, then the Eagle’s search for his next opponent realistically only leaves him with two options. Firstly, battling Tony Ferguson would undoubtedly enhance the Russian’s legacy, particularly after the bout previously fell through on five separate occasions. Even though El Cucuy lost his previous fight against Gaethje, he’s still undoubtedly been one of the best lightweights of the era, and having a victory over Ferguson would be significant for Khabib’s legacy.
Perhaps the most exciting possibility, however, concerns a potential bout with Georges Saint-Pierre. In an article by South China Morning Post, Khabib previously stated that he could fight GSP in April should he get the better of Gaethje. However, Dana White responded by declaring that any fight between the two would need to happen at 155 pounds, which may prove tricky for the Canadian, who predominantly fought at welterweight during his prime.
While, at the time of writing, there is little certainty over whether the former 170-pound champion will target a return against Khabib, a match-up between the two would arguably be the biggest fight in the history of the UFC. As such, it would likely attract an array of new fans, who are now able to immerse themselves in the sport’s action like never before through sports betting. At Royal Panda, prospective bettors can browse an array of MMA-related markets, including McGregor’s upcoming fight with Poirier on January 24th, 2021.
The Eagle Has Nothing Left to Prove, but That May Not Stop Him
Few top-level fighters can claim that they’ve enjoyed a near-perfect career like Khabib. His dominance in the Octagon is unprecedented, leaving him with little left to prove. However, for him, it’s all about competition and legacy. Should a tempting proposal be made by the UFC, then it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for the Eagle to return to action.