Who's Next in the Hunt for Khabib's UFC Lightweight Champion Belt?

© REUTERS / Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports / Khabib Nurmagomedov during a press conference for UFC 229 at Radio City Music Hallin New York, Sep. 20, 2018
Khabib Nurmagomedov during a press conference for UFC 229 at Radio City Music Hallin New York, Sep. 20, 2018 - Sputnik International
Russian fighter and reigning UFC champion Nurmagomedov, nicknamed "the Eagle," has won a much anticipated bout with Conor McGregor in the fourth round by submission. Although Khabib might be suspended for his involvement in the melee that broke out after his victory over McGregor, he is still highly likely to continue his career in the UFC.

Now that Khabib Nurmagomedov has emerged victorious in his confrontation with Conor McGregor, a spat that lasted a little over half a year, a new question arises: who will be next to contest "the Eagle's" champion title and bring his victory streak to an end? One of the most obvious candidates is McGregor himself, as mere hours after his defeat, he already posted on social media that he is interested in a rematch.

Conor McGregor after bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov - Sputnik International
McGregor Under Probe as New Video of Post-Khabib Fight Mayhem Emerges - Reports

Considering how vast the audiences are that McGregor's fights attract, he could be a lucrative candidate for the UFC. However, when UFC head Dana White was asked by TMZ Sports about prospects for a rematch in the nearest time, he was not so confident about it but did not exclude the possibility. Moreover, the Irish athlete could be interested in conducting an interim match or two with other fighters to refresh his skills after leaving mixed martial arts for two years. McGregor has so far not spoken out about his plans.

Another possible candidate was suggested by Dana White himself in his interview with TMZ. When asked about a rematch between Khabib and McGregor, the UFC head recalled a co-main match between Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis, noting that Ferguson was "amazing" and that the "fight was incredible." Indeed, if "the Notorious" McGregor ended the bout with only a shiner, Pettis left the octagon covered in blood after meeting the UFC number one lightweight fighter. Besides, a fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov is long overdue and was initially planned for December 2015, but was postponed several times due to injuries on both sides.

READ MORE: Uh-Oh: Khabib's Father Plans to Punish Son 'Harder' Than UFC After Vegas Fight

There are other options for Khabib's next fight, which could be proposed by the UFC in case McGregor and Ferguson aren't available. It could be Nate Diaz, who has also beaten the Irish fighter once, but lost to him in a rematch. Nurmagomedov himself once expressed his willingness to face Georges St-Pierre, a former champion in welterweight and middleweight, but the Canadian left UFC fighting after winning his last champion title in 2017. However, St-Pierre left once already in 2013, but later returned to compete for the middleweight champion title and might therefore do it again.

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