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Khabib Nurmagomedov: 5 potential opponents if The Eagle loses to Justin Gaethje

Who might be next for Khabib Nurmagomedov if he loses to Justin Gaethje at UFC 254?
Who might be next for Khabib Nurmagomedov if he loses to Justin Gaethje at UFC 254?
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 21 Oct 2020, 02:08 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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UFC 254 goes down this weekend, and in the main event, UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his title against possibly his most dangerous opponent yet – knockout artist Justin Gaethje.

Despite Gaethje’s hot streak – he’s won his last four fights by stoppage – Khabib will still be the hot favorite coming into the clash at the weekend. However, many fans believe that The Highlight could turn out to be Khabib’s kryptonite.

So what if that turns out to be true? What would happen to Khabib if he comes away from UFC 254 with a 28-1 record? Well, he’d almost definitely be looking for a fight to bounce back with.

With that in mind, here are five potential opponents for Khabib should he lose to Gaethje at UFC 254.


#1 Khabib vs. Conor McGregor

A rematch with Conor McGregor might be more tempting for Khabib if he were to lose to Justin Gaethje.
A rematch with Conor McGregor might be more tempting for Khabib if he were to lose to Justin Gaethje.

Khabib might claim that he isn’t interested in a rematch with Conor McGregor. Still, the truth is that The Notorious One might be his most suitable opponent anyway, whether he wins or loses at the weekend. After all, the two drew a massive 2.4 million pay-per-view buys in 2018 at UFC 229. And so a rematch could trigger the biggest buy-rate in UFC history.

That alone would make both men millions of dollars. But while Khabib has claimed he’s not really interested in that, things might change if he were to lose to Justin Gaethje.

With a loss to his name, suddenly, Khabib’s aura of invincibility would be well and truly cracked. And who knows how big of a draw he’d be without his huge winning streak? That means that The Eagle would need a massive – but winnable – fight to bounce back with. And so who better as an opponent than McGregor?

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The backstory between the two obviously sells itself, as the duo have continued to snipe at each other on social media despite their UFC 229 showdown. And more to the point, the fight might feel relatively safe for Khabib based on how much he dominated McGregor two years ago.

Essentially, if Khabib beats Gaethje, he’s probably got the star power to be able to turn a McGregor fight down. But coming off a loss, it might be too tempting to refuse.


#2 Khabib vs. Colby Covington

A fight between Khabib and Colby Covington could see the Dagestani
A fight between Khabib and Colby Covington could see the Dagestani's wrestling heavily tested.
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Okay, so at a glance, this fight sounds right out of left field. However, in the right circumstances, it could make more sense than first meets the eye. And those circumstances could well involve Khabib losing to Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

Should Khabib lose to The Highlight, then while it’d be tempting for him to look to win the UFC Lightweight title back, The Eagle might have other ideas. He’s struggled to make the 155lbs cut-off for the Lightweight division in the past, so why not make the move up to 170lbs?

And if he were to move up to Welterweight, then while a title fight with Kamaru Usman would be off the table, a fight with Colby Covington would definitely be intriguing.

As one of the very best wrestlers in the whole UFC, Chaos would definitely be able to test Khabib’s grappling. In fact, he might well be capable of putting The Eagle on his back, something we’ve never seen before in the UFC.

And that’s before even considering the amount of trash-talk that could go on between the two.

Would Covington be down for this fight? Almost definitely. Thus far, his brash persona hasn’t translated into pay-per-view buys. But a fight with a star like Khabib would almost certainly give him more spotlight than he’s ever had before.

Essentially, the clash of styles and the potential classic promos would make this one a must-see.

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Published 21 Oct 2020, 02:08 IST
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