Following the successful unification of the UFC lightweight championships on Saturday night at UFC 254, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov decided to follow through on a prior promise made to his mother amid the passing of his father, Abdulmanap earlier this year – and called time on his splendid career in the sport. With the throne set to be vacated, promotional newcomer, Michael Chandler has suggested a four-man tournament to determine a new 155-pound titleholder.
Khabib, who ended his twenty-nine fight career undefeated, slapped a stunning second-round triangle on interim champion, Gaethje, before an emotional post-fight interview with commentator, Jon Anik where he announced his decision to retire from professional mixed martial arts.
The Dagestani ends a two-year stint as the promotion’s lightweight champion, in a reign which seen him score successful defences opposite former two-weight world champion, Conor McGregor, and recent submission wins over Dustin Poirier and the above-mentioned, Gaethje.
With the throne expected to become vacant in Khabib’s absence, former three-time Bellator lightweight best, Chandler has floated the possibility of a four-man tournament to determine the next undisputed champion, featuring himself, rumoured future foe, Tony Ferguson, as well as the above noted, Poirier and McGregor who are expected to rematch on January 23rd. coming at UFC 257.
“I’d love the opportunity to fight in a four-man tournament for that (lightweight) title,” Chandler explained to BT Sports following the culmination of UFC 254. “Conor (McGregor), (Dustin) Poirier, myself, (Tony) Ferguson. There’s some names that need to be fighting for a title, so let’s make it happen.”
Whilst the promotion rarely put together matches in a tournament format, Chandler’s list of potential entrees makes a lot of sense.
With Ferguson, the former interim champion dropped his second interim title opportunity at UFC 249 on short-notice in May, losing via a dominant fifth-round knockout to Gaethje. A pairing between the Oxnard native and Chandler has also been floated recently, with the pair noting their respective interest in locking horns.
For Poirier and McGregor, the two are largely expected to run back their UFC 178 pairing at the previously mentioned, UFC 257 showcase next year – with Poirier riding a unanimous decision win over Dan Hooker, and McGregor fresh from a forty-second knockout win over Donald Cerrone.
Along with Chandler’s suggested entrants, the lightweight division also features notable names such as the afore-mentioned, Hooker, streaking contender, Charles Oliveira, Diego Ferreira, as well as up-and-coming top-fifteen challengers, Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev who all look to play some part in the lightweight title picture after Khabib’s retirement, as well as Gaethje who will remain a constant threat at 155-pounds.