Let’s play a game. It’s called “Who Should Khabib Fight Next?” The premise is obvious: the UFC has a pretty dominant lightweight champ in Khabib Nurmagomedov. He just beat Conor McGregor pretty handily, forcing the Irishman to tap out after some serious punishment. Prior to that, Khabib has smashed everyone put before him. So… who should be next? A bold idea would be Bellator lightweight king Michael Chandler.
Obviously, Khabib has to deal with some Nevada State Athletic Commission wrangling, because the Dagestani went absolutely buckwild in the aftermath of the McGregor fight. But assuming that gets all worked out (and it most definitely will), who gets next?
Don’t say Tony Ferguson. That matchup has been made a thousand times, and for a thousand different reasons, the fight has fallen apart.
And don’t say McGregor. That beating was so thorough, McGregor probably would rather an easier fight in his next go around – you know, against Cain Velasquez or someone like that.
No, Khabib needs a big “money” fight that can move the pay-per-view needle, and who among the lightweights in the UFC can offer that? No one. However, nothing is enticing as a cross-promotional matchup, and since Bellator is the UFC’s biggest competitor…
Chandler just won back his lightweight belt this weekend at Bellator 212, which he’d lost last year in a total fluke. But he never stopped being regarded as the best 155-pound fighter on Bellator’s roster. And the notion of fighting Khabib, that’s even foremost in his mind. As per MMAJunkie:
Speaking in less realistic terms, though, say Chandler is given the opportunity to name his opponent, irrespective of practical hurdles like contracts and competing promotions. Who would that be?
“Khabib (Nurmagomedov),” Chandler answered promptly. “If we’re talking regardless of organization, Khabib is the No. 1 guy in the world. I’m always wanting to fight the No. 1 guy in the world. And I don’t just say that because he’s the No. 1 guy in the world. I think, as we saw tonight, I can do that to anybody in the entire world.
“But it’s tough. I kind of put myself in a predicament when I say Khabib because people are like, ‘Why are you calling him out?’, but really it was a reporter asking who I wanted to fight. I’m not out here calling out Khabib. But I do think I hold the keys to that lock, to that puzzle that a lot of people can’t solve.”
Look, we’ve entered into a new era in the sport. After McGregor jumped to boxing and fought Floyd Mayweather, anything can happen as long as the potential for big money is there.
And maybe, just maybe, there could be some big money in pairing the UFC’s Khabib against Bellator’s Chandler.
Never mind who would win or lose this matchup. The real question here is if there’s big money to be made – that’s what would motivate the Powers That Be to make this thing happen.
What do you think?