Undefeated UFC Lightweight star, Khabib Nurmagomedov, is looking for a September return against a 'top opponent' according to his manager.
Nurmagomedov has been out of action since April, where he defeated Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 11, due to the celebration of Ramadan, which severely affects his ability to train and fight. He'll be absent all summer but according to his manager, Mike Constantino, he's ready to return in September and is looking for a fight that will progress him through the rankings.
Speaking to MMAJunkie.com, Constantino said that: “You always want to fight the guy ahead of you. That’s why it made sense to do Khabib and Ben Henderson. They’re both higher ranked. You never want to take a step backwards in the rankings because then you put yourself into in a tough position."
Henderson and Nurmagomedov have been linked together all year and after Henderson beat Rustam Khabilov at the start of the month, many expected the two to fight on Nurmagomedov's return. Unfortunately for Nurmagomedov, Constantino and fight fans everywhere, Henderson will now face dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night 49.
“I was really hoping for Ben Henderson,” Constantino said.
“He destroyed Rafael dos Anjos, then they gave him to Ben. What else is left for Khabib? He’ll fight anybody. He made it very clear he’ll fight anybody you put in front of him. I’m waiting to see what they have planned for him. My phone’s not going to ring and you’ll hear a ‘No’ on my end. He’ll fight anyone."
So with Henderson a no go, who can Nurmagomedov fight? Well there's been talk of a Nate Diaz return, but also, Nurmagomedov fighting the winner of Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone and Jim Miller, the latter of which is also managed by Constantino.
“I would hate for it to happen,” Constantino said of a potential Nurmagomedov vs. Miller matchup.
“However, it is part of the nature of the beast."
For Constantino, the issue comes from the top of the division. Reigning champion, Anthony Pettis is injured and won't fight until the end of the year due to The Ultimate Fighter commitments.
That keeps not only him, but also Gilbert Melendez held up and that leaves Benson Henderson as the only available fighter that is ranked higher than Nurmagomedov to fight.
“The lightweight division is log-jammed, the champion isn't active, so it’s time to just get these guys fights and keep them moving,” he said.
Although Nurmagomedov, who at 22-0 in MMA and 6-0 in the UFC, deserves a title shot right away, the delay of Pettis means that he'd have to take another five to six month layoff, on top of his initial rest for Ramadan.
The message from Constantino is clear though - find Khabib and fight and he'll take it.
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