Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s sudden retirement from combined martial arts Saturday has left a large void within the sport basically, and a really particular one within the light-weight division.
The highest of the 155-pound division goes from a dominant champion in his prime, to a vacant seat with no apparent inheritor. The UFC has loads of good choices for what to do with arguably its deepest weight class, however which is able to it select?
When requested in regards to the division shortly after Nurmagomedov’s bombshell announcement, UFC president Dana White mentioned, “Do not ask me in regards to the future. I don’t know.”
Who do you wish to see within the subsequent light-weight title battle? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/2NNwbVLQeB
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 25, 2020
Listed here are the more than likely choices in entrance of the UFC proper now.
Possibility 1: E-book Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23 for the vacant light-weight championship
Ariel Helwani stories on Conor McGregor accepting a battle vs. Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23, however McGregor has a stipulation that he needs the battle to happen at AT&T Stadium.
That is the obvious resolution. McGregor and Poirier have verbally agreed to face one another on Jan. 23. Clearly, expectations have been this might be a non-title battle, however that modifications with Nurmagomedov’s departure. Poirier is No. 2 within the UFC’s official rankings, McGregor is No. 4. They’re every coming off a win, though McGregor’s wasn’t at light-weight, it was a welterweight victory over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in January. However, it is a justifiable choice to make and has nice industrial enchantment.
Possibility 2: Host a mini-tournament in early 2021
I exploit the phrase “match” loosely right here, as a result of the UFC does not do “tournaments.” White will not be a fan of tournaments, within the conventional sense of the phrase, and by no means can be. However the UFC may e-book McGregor vs. Poirier as a non-title battle, and e-book Tony Ferguson vs. Michael Chandler as a non-title battle, with the understanding that the 2 winners will face off for the title.
Now, the UFC may basically create the identical understanding by simply making the McGregor vs. Poirier battle for a title, and calling Ferguson vs. Chandler a No. 1 contender battle. It is kind of the identical, proper? However this might be a special strategy to promote mainly the identical factor, relying on what narrative the UFC needs to create.
Possibility 3: Scrap McGregor vs. Poirier on Jan. 23 and e-book McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje for the vacant light-weight championship
I do not discover this one probably, since McGregor and the UFC have already kind of dedicated to the Poirier matchup (though, contracts haven’t been signed) — however it’s price mentioning. Earlier this yr, McGregor badly needed to battle Gaethje. And on Saturday, Gaethje mentioned he is prepared to leap proper again into camp and battle within the close to future. And regardless of Gaethje’s loss to Nurmagomedov on Saturday, nobody is saying he is not so good as marketed. Nurmagomedov was simply that good to make everybody else look dangerous. If McGregor all of the sudden actually needed Gaethje as an alternative of Poirier, whom he beat in 2014, the UFC may pivot. Once more, I do not suppose it will occur, but it surely’s not inconceivable.