On paper, Khabib’s record (24–0) is absolutely perfect. But when it comes to holding his end of the fight, he’s been anything but.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has gone undefeated his entire professional mixed martial arts career. He has compiled an astounding 24–0 record, but has yet to earn a title shot. He would be the perfect matchup for superstar Conor McGregor, but McGregor is off attempting to break pay per view records by fighting some other guy. In the meantime, the interim lightweight title fight was given to Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. What gives?
Injuries Derail Khabib Nurmagomedov
First of all, Khabib is an extremely dangerous fighter. While dismantling Michael Johnson, telling him to “give up” and that “it is my destiny to fight for the title,” was granted a title eliminator fight versus Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 (that was actually held back in March of this year). Hours before the fight, Khabib was pulled from the fight for going to the doctor behind the UFC’s back. He was badly missing weight and according to some reports, severely dehydrated.
But with that, Khabib has also been a very injury prone fighter throughout the latter parts of his career. Along with the absence from the UFC 209 card, he also had suffered a rib injury that had his entire UFC career in doubt, as well as multiple knee injuries. He is just not reliable enough for a big fight. He’s pulled out against Ferguson twice now and very few can blame Tony for not wanting to schedule a third fight, only to have a high probability to be cancelled again. Tony is fixated on a lightweight title shot and Nurmagomedov can’t slow that down now.
McGregor is the Boss
A second issue stemming from his recent injury-riddled situation is now, despite what else he has going on, Conor McGregor refuses to fight him. The Notorious One spent two years waiting to fight Josè Aldo and he will not let that circumstance take place again. McGregor is a showman that wants as many paying bodies to pass through his gate as possible. Despite a “McGregor versus Nurmagomdov” hookup in Russia potentially selling two million plus pay per views, the pullout risk for Conor makes it a no-go. Conor was a hot commodity before the Floyd Mayweather fight, and he will certainly be scorching after. Every time he puts his signature on paper to facilitate a fight, it must happen for him, and for the UFC. All of this, of course, multiplies if McGregor magically connects with Floyd and puts him away. Khabib will never be a guarantee to make a fight, not with his spotty history.
Resume Means A Lot
The final issue I have with Nurmagomedov fighting for the title right now, is the quality of his “body count.” 24–0 is fantastic. But who has he beat that’s relevant? The most common name brought up is Rafael dos Anjos, who, after winning the lightweight title from Anthony Pettis, hasn’t looked as explosive and looks to be on the down side of his career. Michael Johnson, Pat Healy, and Thiago Tavares are hardly considered elite fighters. Although opponents like Eddie Alvarez or Tony Fergueson would confirm he’s an elite fighter, his victories thus far have all been against average UFC fighters, at best.
Despite the perfect record, to get to the point where I think Khabib truly deserves his title shot, he will need two or three more fights, and against elite fighters without hitting the ejection button. Until then, he should have to continue to stand in the lineup.