Does Khabib Nurmagomedov deserve a shot at the UFC lightweight title ahead of Conor McGregor?

He has only fought once since 2014

Eddie Alvarez, lightweight, UFC

Image: Gregory Payan / AP/Press Association Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov has apparently signed two contracts to fight current UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at either UFC 205 or UFC 206.

Unbeaten in 23 professional fights, the Dagestani-Russian is a formidable foe. He holds impressive wins over Gleison Tibau, Abel Trujillo and former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

Grappling is his strong suit, and he is both a two-time Sambo World Champion and Russian Combat Sambo winner. He holds a UFC record of 21 takedowns in a single bout – achieved in three rounds against Trujillo.

He has even taken on some more unpredictable opponents in the form of a wrestling with a small bear.

He is currently ranked as the number one contender in the lightweight division despite having only fought once between 2015 and 2016.

He was out for six months in 2014 with a torn meniscus in his right knee, only for another knee injury to delay his comeback at UFC 187 against Donald Cerrone. A rib injury then forced the cancellation of a bout with Tony Ferguson in December 2015.  

On his much anticipated return, he was due to fight Ferguson again, only for a complication with the American’s lungs to scupper the bout. Instead he fought unheralded Darren Horcher on short notice and duly dispatched him within two rounds, landing 75 strikes along the way.   

Alvarez is riding a three fight win streak having dispatched Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and Dos Anjos to claim the lightweight crown, but he lost his first fight in the UFC against Donald Cerrone.

“Cowboy” Cerrone is currently testing the water rather successfully at welterweight, and is scheduled to fight Kelvin Gastellum at UFC 205, so that takes him out of contention.

The seemingly unprecedented level of control that Conor McGregor has on his own career path appears to be making Dana White uncomfortable. He hasn’t defended his featherweight title in almost a year, and it looks as though he's not all that keen on a rematch with Aldo just yet.

After his lightweight title shot was abandoned due to a Dos Anjos training accident, McGregor has made the right noises about returning to that level again now that the current champion isn’t scheduled to fight yet.

At 32 years of age, Alvarez is a veteran of 32 professional fights, and may be looking to cash in on his success while he can. No one has defended the UFC lightweight title four times, which emphasises the difficulty of the division.

Alvarez pocketed a disclosed salary for his title win of €150,000, meaning a multi-million dollar fight against the Dubliner would be his preferred option for his first defence for fairly obvious reasons. 

In response to Alvarez calling him out, McGregor was his typical self:

With the UFC 205 press conference due to take place this week, and no confirmed main event, all eyes will be on Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to see who finally gets the nod.