Look, we’re going to keep this stupid and basic; obviously the real money fight for UFC’s debut in Russia is Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor, headlining the main event.
Of course, any fight for Conor is a money fight. And for Russian MMA fans, it would be absolutely crazy that the most promising MMA prospect of today, whom happens to be from the Kavkaz Mountains, to not star in the first and most major MMA event in Russian history ever. Especially since Russia is a combat-sports Mecca, that holds a population of over 144 million people.
The first part of the proverbial equation is that Khabib must headline UFC Russia, as he is the biggest draw there. The second aspect is the fact that fighting Conor there would be the optimal money fight especially in terms of PPV, since Conor is MMA’s biggest draw period.
That being said, it would have been more of a toss up had the Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson fight not been announced so soon (not even a month after Nurmagomedov’s recent fight against Barboza in December); since one could argue that a title fight against Tony would be a perfect match for UFC debut in Russia (which will take place in September).
Yet shortly after Nurmagomedov’s finishing of Barboza, Dana White hosted the Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov presser, slating their fight for April. Why the rush? Well, because this would provide impeccable timing for Khabib to fight Tony, win or lose, take time off for Ramadan, and then headline a PPV debut for UFC in Russia.
Why is this time-table important, and how does it play off of Dana White’s elusiveness in regards to Conor’s title status? Well, because Khabib headlining Russia for any title would be great, however fighting Conor in Russia would be MASSIVE; title, or no title. And this is true for many reasons, such as: Conor’s enormous draw, Khabib’s stardom in Russia, and the actual stylistic matchup. It is literally the perfect matchup for the first ever UFC Russia PPV. Of course, the cherry on top is if Nurmagomedov takes the title from Ferguson beforehand in April.
That said, if Khabib does beat Tony in April, it makes easy sense to assume that Khabib would have earned the money fight with Conor. However, if Tony beats Khabib, it’s a bit harder to justify why Tony shouldn’t get the money fight should Conor return.
Unless of course, you’re the UFC; Tony isn’t a big draw, even with the belt. Let’s not get things twisted, Tony is a savage, and has a great following, but he’s not Khabib, and he’s certainly not Conor when it comes to PPV draws.
So this is all speculation, but where’s the smoking gun?
1. Dana White’s presser announcement for Khabib vs Tony left more questions than answers with regards to the belt, Conor…etc. since Dana literally refused to address the status of Conor’s championship; he’s not stripped of the title, but Tony and Khabib are fighting for the real title, real belt… Huh?
Exactly; White is leaving room for Conor’s return to the Octagon, pending the outcome of Tony vs Khabib. Should Khabib beat Tony, Conor comes back for a unification bout. No problems setting that narrative up.
Khabib loses to Tony however, requires a little slight of hand; Conor is announced to be stripped of his title due to inactivity (giving Tony his dues), and then requiring Conor to come back and earning a title shot against Tony, by fighting Khabib in Russia.
2. Conor has stated multiple times (and very recently) that he wants to fight in Russia.
3. Khabib already announced his plan after taking “the bulls*t belt” away from Tony: “And, after this, UFC give me and Conor three months for preparing and make this 80,000 arena in Moscow – I think 100 per cent we can sell all these tickets.”
4. Dana White said Conor wants Khabib in Russia after Floyd Mayweather fight.
5. Logic; this is the first reason though most would suggest that it is purely subjective, so we left it for last.
But no need to get too technical, it’s ultimately objective and easily makes more sense…
– Conor vs Tony in Russia, really good.
– Khabib vs Tony in Russia, great.
– Khabib vs Conor in Russia, it’s red panty night!
The only slick part was figuring out the logistics, in terms of reasoning and maneuvering around the idea that Nurmagomedov face McGregor in a money fight, should Nurmagomedov lose to Ferguson prior. And we’ve already provided how that’s been mitigated.
So, this is our story and we’re sticking to it.
See you at UFC Russia AKA Khabib vs Conor (pun intended with brute force).
Author: Fadi Malkosh
Fadi Malkosh is the founder of Network Radio.