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Khabib Nurmagomedov: 5 potential opponents if The Eagle beats Justin Gaethje

If Khabib Nurmagomedov gets past Justin Gaethje, who should he face next?
If Khabib Nurmagomedov gets past Justin Gaethje, who should he face next?
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 20 Oct 2020, 00:41 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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UFC 254 goes down this weekend, and the main event features one of the UFC’s biggest fights in recent memory. Reigning UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is set to face off with interim Lightweight champ Justin Gaethje, with the winner becoming undisputed champion.

It’ll be a tough fight for Khabib, who hasn’t faced a striker quite as powerful as Gaethje during his UFC tenure. However, should The Eagle come through unscathed, not only will he remain UFC Lightweight champ, but he’d also improve his MMA record to 29-0.

Khabib has recently suggested that he could look to hang up his gloves after one more fight – hopefully ending his career at 30-0. Given his status as arguably the UFC’s biggest star right now, the promotion would definitely want him to go out with the biggest fight possible.

With that in mind, here are five potential opponents for Khabib Nurmagomedov, should he defeat Justin Gaethje.


#1 Khabib vs. Tony Ferguson

A fight between Khabib and Tony Ferguson would still draw plenty of interest.
A fight between Khabib and Tony Ferguson would still draw plenty of interest.

Despite his recent loss to Justin Gaethje, former interim UFC Lightweight champion Tony Ferguson would still make one of the best opponents for Khabib in his next fight. A clash between Khabib and El Cucuy remains one of the most highly anticipated fights in MMA history, and for good reason.

Ferguson is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous Lightweights on the UFC’s roster, but that’s only part of the story. The UFC has tried to book a fight between the two men so many times now that if they were to ever step into the Octagon to face one another, the pre-fight hype would be absolutely ridiculous.

Somehow, the fight has fallen through on five separate occasions over the past five years, with the first booking dating all the way back to December 2015. Both Khabib and Ferguson have been forced out with various issues, and of course, COVID-19 put paid to the UFC’s latest attempt to match the two men.

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Prior to Ferguson’s loss to Gaethje, the fight would also have seen two of the UFC’s longest winning streaks pitted against one another. Khabib obviously still remains 28-0, but prior to the Gaethje fight, Ferguson had won a crazy 12 UFC fights in a row, finishing nine of them.

With a wild, aggressive style that sees him sling combinations at his opponent on the feet and constantly hunt for submissions on the ground, El Cucuy would undoubtedly test Khabib’s defense. Essentially, there’s nobody quite like Ferguson in the UFC, which is why this one remains a fight that everyone would love to see.


#2 Khabib vs. Georges St. Pierre

Could the great Georges St. Pierre be drawn out of retirement to face Khabib?
Could the great Georges St. Pierre be drawn out of retirement to face Khabib?
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He might be officially retired – he hasn’t fought since November 2017 – but former UFC Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre would still be a hell of an opponent for Khabib to face.

Naturally, weight would be an issue in this one, given GSP has never fought at 155lbs before. Most likely, the fight would have to take place at a 160lbs catchweight, or Khabib would have to move up to 170lbs for the first time in the UFC. However, the risk would almost definitely be worth it for The Eagle.

Khabib’s 28-0 record might be impressive, and it’d look even better should he beat Gaethje to go 29-0. However, when it comes to sheer dominance over a long period of time, nobody in UFC history can touch St. Pierre.

Rush ruled over the UFC’s Welterweight division with an iron fist essentially from 2006 until his initial retirement in 2013. That period of time saw him defeat genuine UFC legends like Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, and Carlos Condit and a number of other top-ranked fighters. St. Pierre never fought anyone, but the very best his division had to offer, and by and large, he dominated them all.

Sure, he’s 39 years old now – and turns 40 next May – but anyone who follows him online knows he’s still in phenomenal shape, even in retirement. A fight with Khabib has already been mooted, and seemingly, GSP would be down for it. And if it were to be Khabib’s final fight, the UFC would surely see the positives in it, too.

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So could Khabib really impose his grappling game on arguably the greatest MMA fighter to ever lace up a pair of gloves? It’d be an absolutely fascinating clash to see. And if the Dagestani could win, his claim to being the greatest of all time would only grow. Essentially, this would be one of the most intriguing fights in UFC history.

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Published 20 Oct 2020, 00:41 IST
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