The path ahead for the lightweight (LW) division is uncertain. Two of its biggest draws have clouded futures that surround them. The champion Khabib “the Eagle” Nurmogomedov is understandably taking a step back from the fight game following the tragic passing of his father and pioneer of Russian MMA Abdulmap Nurmogomedov. Media speculation has stated that Khabib may not enter the Octagon again, which comes off the back of his teammate Daniel Cormier confirming that Khabib fighting without his father in his corner will be difficult. A feat that the LW champ may not want to endure.
Then there is “The Notorious” Conor McGregor who can consistently generate hype around a fight, regardless of the opponent, has declared his retirement. However, we must remember that he has retired multiple times before only to return later. If fate seals that these two will never grace the Octagon again, where does that leave the LW division?
As I said earlier, the path is uncertain, but that in no means implies that it is not exciting. Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje is testament to that statement alone with only 2 of his 24 career fights going to decision. While his bouts in the past have been considered exciting yet wreckless, under the guidance of head coach Trevor Wittman, we saw a calculated performance against Tony Ferguson to become the Interim LW champion. However, the heat that the title brings sees a newly painted bullseye on Gaethjes back.
Waiting in the wings is fan favourite Dustin Poirer, a man who already holds a fourth-round TKO victory over Gaethje when they fought in their headline bout in April 2018. With Poirer coming off the back of a win against 5th ranked Dan Hooker, not many people would be opposed to seeing Gaethje and Poirer tee off once more.
It would surely then make sense to accompany that fight with a salivating no.1 contender bout between Tony Ferguson and Dan Hooker. Both have exciting fighting styles presenting a never die attitude alongside the intent to finish a fight. However, negating the losses that both individuals have recently endured, I don’t believe the fans would take umbrage to any of these four men fighting one another in the near future.
The talent and excitement are not just at the top of the pile either; there are exciting prospects littered throughout this division to look out for in the next 12 months. Diego Ferreira, the highly touted Brazilian is currently ranked 8th after coming off a submission win over Anthony Pettis in January of this year. Looking to keep his six-fight week streak going, he will most likely be looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills on UFCs second outing to Abu Dhabi later this year. Interestingly his last loss was via KO to none other than Dustin Poirer. I think we can see a pattern forming here, with three of the previous four names (Gaethje, Hooker, Ferreira) mentioned have all succumbed to the skill, heart and determination of Poirer.
Shifting our attention over to Russia. Islam Makhachev who had much success in the MMA organisation M1 global is the highly-rated training partner of Khabib Nurmogomedov. Makhachev is currently on a six-fight win streak in the UFC and not only has he displayed dominance to break into the top 15, but he has also shown his versatility with wins coming from submissions, KO’s and decisions. If Nurmogomedov does not return, you can rest assured he will aim to pass the “smash” mantel onto Makhacev.
From two international fighters to another, we move to Sweden. David Teymur, a kickboxer and Muay Thai practitioner by trade, was riding an eight-fight win streak (50% of which were stoppages) before facing the talented Charles Oliveira where he succumbed to a 2nd round anaconda choke. Nevertheless, his kickboxing background leads him to partake in exciting stand-up fights and the hard work he is putting in at All Stars MMA training facility in Sweden will see him prepared and ready in an attempt to raise his profile once more.
There are many more that can be mentioned, which I am sure you will in the comments. Still, the point is that while the future may be uncertain for the division, the list above proves how exciting the LW roster will be and I for one am looking forward to watching it all unfold.