Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia? It Would Be the Wrong Call

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Conor McGregor UFC
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Conor McGregor fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia? It’s a nice idea — but it probably shouldn’t happen any time soon, if at all.

According to UFC President Dana White, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor has floated the idea of fighting top 155lb’er Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia. Speaking with MMA Junkie, White stated of Conor that “He’s like, ‘I want Khabib, in Russia.’ He’s awesome. Conor McGregor is a (expletive) unicorn. There’s nothing like him. He’s working on boxing Floyd Mayweather and then he’s talking about fighting Khabib in Russia right after.”

That’s a fantastic notion. It’s admirable. It’s true warrior spirit, going into enemy territory to take on their best.

It’s also absolutely the wrong call.

As tantalizing as that bout may be, and it will hopefully happen some day, it should not take place in Russia. The UFC should absolutely visit the nation at some point, and Nurmagomedov should be a prominent player on that potential card. That said, there are a few reasons why The Eagle shouldn’t be facing Mystic Mac there.

For starters, McGregor has yet to fight in Ireland as a UFC champion. In fact, his only UFC appearance in front of Irish fans came in 2014 in Dublin, when he made short work of Diego Brandao on a Fight Pass card. Since then, he has conquered Las Vegas and New York, with a stop in Boston along the way.

Remember that Irish stadium show in Croke Park? That needs to happen before any march on Moscow.

Then there’s Nurmagomedov’s weight cutting issues. According to the lightweight contender, he “nearly died” before being rushed to hospital while cutting weight for his fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 209. Imagine a last minute opponent change in the UFC’s big premiere in Russia. Not a good look for the promotion, even if The Eagle would take most of the heat.

Speaking of Tony Ferguson, White noted while talking with MMA Junkie that the fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson still needs to happen — and it does. Ferguson was the man who was ready to go at UFC 209, so before you get too excited with the idea of McGregor finally facing someone who might wrestle him out of his title, keep in mind that this bout is still at least one fight removed.

The fact that McGregor supposedly floated this idea (and remember, Dana White is a promoter, so who knows if this is simply being said to build up the promotion’s brightest star even more) is fantastic. It shows he’s still interested in the sport, in defending his title, and in facing the best. Yet we saw what happened with Frankie Edgar, who was the odd man out when McGregor was dismantling featherweight.

Khabib Nurmagomedov could easily be lightweight’s version of Frankie Edgar when it comes to the current title picture. That’s unfortunate, but as it stands, Ferguson is at the head of the charge to face McGregor upon his return. If Khabib bests him, sure, make the McGregor fight — but again, not in Russia. It’s simply not time.

There are a host of other reasons to avoid this fight in Russia as well. Ask Fabio Maldonado how fighting in Russia went for him. Not to mention the fact that the reception of the UFC in Russia (where M-1 and a host of other regional promotions are entrenched) remains a question mark. Would it make money? Yes. Would a fight of that magnitude be better suited to Ireland, or New York, or Las Vegas? Absolutely.

McGregor is, of course, a little busy at the moment. Yet more and more, it does seem like he’ll be back in the UFC before the end of the year. Where is the question. For now, lets hope Russia isn’t the answer. The UFC in Russia? Sure, some day, but this isn’t the bout to make.

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