As we close out 2020, the UFC‘s lightweight division is in limbo. The reason is that the undisputed champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), said after his last fight that he was walking away from competition.
Khabib choked out Justin Gaethje (22-3) at UFC 254 to successfully defend his title. While in most cases the UFC would just move on and book a title fight for the vacant title, Dana White has said that he’s going to try to convince Khabib to compete again.Â
Originally, Khabib wanted to retire at 30-0. However, after his father passed away this year, the UFC lightweight champion promised his mother that his fight against Justin Gaethje would be his last fight.
As of now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen. Nurmagomedov came out this week and said he believed that his title could be up for grabs at UFC 257. The main event of that card features the rematch between Conor McGregor (22-4) and Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC).
State of the UFC’s lightweight division
If we do get confirmation that Khabib is no longer going to fight, it would make sense that McGregor and Poirier fight for the UFC title. The promotion wanted McGregor to fight for the title in 2020. Poirier is the former interim champion and deserves another shot.
It’s a fluid situation, but I think there’s a good chance we see some form of UFC title fight happen at 257. Although not officially announced, the co-main event that night is also a big fight for the lightweight division.
The UFC‘s prized signing of 2020, Michael Chandler (21-5), is expected to make his promotional debut. We found out last week that it appears he will be taking on Dan Hooker (20-9) in the co-headliner.
Again, that’s not confirmed. Whoever wins that matchup will be right at the top of the division alongside Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Oliveira announced his status as a top contender at UFC 256.
A few weeks ago, Oliveira completely dominated Tony Ferguson (25-5). The fight was incredibly one-sided and Oliveira should be in the conversations for a title eliminator after that performance.
2020 was a rough year for Ferguson who lost in dominant fashions to both Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. Ferguson was the boogey man of the lightweight division for so many years. However, he took a major step back in 2020.
There’s a reason why the lightweight division has been the best in the UFC for some time. It’s a murderers row of contenders and with Khabib stepping away, the division is up for grabs. Should be a very fun 2021 in that division.