Khabib Nurmagomedov has long been considered one of the best fighters in all of mixed-martial-artists, but Eddie Alvarez doesn’t believe “The Eagle’s” recent championship win at UFC 223 was legit. Does he have a point?
Nurmagomedov was initially supposed to fight interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson earlier this month, until he went down with a knee injury. The UFC scrambled to find a replacement in order to salvage the card’s headliner, which Dana White had said, would strip Conor McGregor of the 155 title the second a punch was thrown.
After the first replacement, Max Holloway, was deemed medically unfit to fight, Al Iaquinta stepped up. Nurmagomedov pretty much cruised through the game Iaquinta, and secured the lightweight crown via unanimous decision.
“If the Philadelphia Eagles show up for the Super Bowl, and New England can’t make it, you don’t bring in the third-place team to play for the Lombardi Trophy,” Alvarez said. “You have to wait and you have be patient. You can’t tell the No. three, four, five guys ‘you get a title shot.’ It just got silly real fast. Everything got silly real fast, and it made the belt quite meaningless.”
“You know what no one’s talking about? Khabib talked about fake champions, fake belts., fake this, fake that, and everything is fake, fake, fake,” Alvarez added. “No one said that they were just begging to give him that belt because they had Russia behind him. Russia is going to be an open market soon, and it’s convenient Khabib has the belt.”
Now, Alvarez isn’t the only person who wasn’t on board with the fight being for the title. While Iaquinta can crack, and has a ton of heart, he wasn’t ranked in the top when the fight went down. So, strictly from a ranking’s perspective, you can see why some folks might not view Khabib as a legit champ, until he defends it against say McGregor or Ferguson. Yes, even if Khabib has never lost.
It is true that the UFC’s been eyeing Russia for a while now, and they hope to hold a card there fairly soon. So, obviously, having Nurmagomedov as champ will be great for business. But, there’s been no indication that the UFC will be holding a card there this year, and Nurmagomedov has said he wants to fight in November or December. So, the decision to move ahead with the title fight at UFC 223 was likely more about getting on with the lightweight division. Conor hasn’t fought in the cage since 2016, and the UFC had two, Ferguson – Nurmagomedov title fights fall through.
Maybe the questions regarding Khabib’s status as champ will be answered, in say, a November bout with Conor at MSG?