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The future of the UFC's lightweight division following Khabib Nurmagomedov's retirement

Who will become the UFC
Who will become the UFC's next lightweight champion
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 26 Oct 2020, 14:02 IST
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With the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov, the future of the UFC's lightweight division hangs in the balance. 

Nurmagomedov, the division’s most recent titleholder, turned in yet another masterful performance by submitting interim champion and number one contender Justin Gaethje in the second round of their main event title bout at UFC 254. With the victory, the Russian sensation improved to 29-0 with three successful title defenses. 

During the post-fight interview, Khabib Nurmagomedov made the stunning announcement regarding his retirement. While the title hasn’t yet been declared vacant by the UFC yet, people are already asking who the next titleholder will be. 

Fortunately for the US-based promotion, their lightweight division is stacked with contenders that could easily assume the throne.

A likely matchup that could determine a frontrunner for the title is the rumoured bout between #2-ranked Dustin Poirier and #4-ranked Conor McGregor

While nothing has been made official, Poirier and McGregor had publicly agreed to a rematch in December. Whether or not it will be under the UFC banner and with lightweight title implications remains to be seen. 

Poirier and McGregor, both former UFC titleholders in their own rights, have faced off before, with the latter winning via first-round TKO back in 2014. The two have also come up short in title bids against the dominant Nurmagomedov via submission. 

Another intriguing matchup that the UFC could put together is that of former interim champion Tony Ferguson and promotional newcomer Michael Chandler. 

Ferguson is coming off a loss to Gaethje back in UFC 249 last May, but is still the #3-ranked contender in the division. Chandler, on the other hand, is a former Bellator world champion and was on standby as a back-up for the Nurmagomedov-Gaethje title bout. The two have also hinted at a possible matchup in December. 

Also still very much in the mix is Gaethje, who expressed his desire to return to action soon. Prior to the loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gaethje put together quite the impressive winning streak. 'The Highlight' beat the likes of James Vick, Edson Barboza, Donald Cerrone and Ferguson on the way to the interim title and a shot at the lightweight king. 

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Khabib Nurmagomedov leaves lasting lightweight legacy

Whether or not his retirement stands, Khabib Nurmagomedov has already carved out a spot for himself among the UFC’s lightweight elite. 

The Dagestan native entered the UFC in 2012, making an immediate statement with a submission win over Kamal Shalorus. From there, he went on to dominate eight more contenders, including former champion Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson and Edson Barboza to finally earn a shot at UFC gold. 

Facing Al Iaquinta for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship, Nurmagomedov got arguably his toughest test in the promotion but still cruised to a unanimous decision victory. 

During his run as champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov defended the title against Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and most recently Justin Gaethje, before calling it a career after UFC 254. 

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Fans and fellow fighters alike all paid tribute to the spectacular career of the Russian star. Even UFC President Dana White alluded to Khabib Nurmagomedov as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world and said that 'The Eagle' is 'close' to GOAT status.

If Khabib Nurmagomedov does follow through on his retirement, he would have achieved his dream of retiring on top - undefeated and undisputed. 


Published 26 Oct 2020, 14:02 IST
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