There are a number of fighters who are all in the picture for the title should Khabib opt to stay retired, and with UFC playing their cards very close to their chest, there is no clue to which pair of fighters will have the first shot at becoming lightweight champion.
UFC 257 served up some huge surprises to the division, with Dustin Poirier and new boy Michael Chandler both making statements to be considered serious contenders.
Chandler is currently ranked as the number four contender for the lightweight title after making a seriously impressive debut back in January, seeing off Dan Hooker in the first round of their co-main event fight. His debut was so impressive that he earned himself Performance of the Night.
In his post-fight interview, Chandler made his intentions known, telling Jon Anik: “Let’s go get that title shot soon.”
The former Bellator lightweight champion has certainly put himself on the fast-track for a UFC lightweight title shot, however, he will have to face his biggest challenge yet to get to his ultimate destination.
Justin Gaethje was Khabib’s last opponent in his undefeated UFC run, bowing out to The Eagle in the second round of their fight at UFC 254 via submission.
Gaethje went into his fight with Khabib as the interim lightweight champion, and he will be very much putting himself in the picture to become the undisputed lightweight champion should the Russian fail to return.
According to ESPN, these two lightweight giants are set to go against each other, in a fight where the winner should fill one of the spots for the lightweight title fight.
It’s also rumoured that there will be a trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, which will more than likely see the winner of that bout take up the other space for the potentially vacated title.
That being said, these aren’t the only fighters making waves in the lightweight division.
Charles Oliveria put his name in the hat after a dominant display which earned him a win over Tony Ferguson. Khabib’s protege Islam Makhachev also gained a huge win over Drew Dober at the start of this month.
The lightweight division is certainly worth keeping an eye on as the road to the potentially vacated title hots up, hopefully leading to a huge title fight before the end of the year.