Opinion: UFC should go big in 2018, have Khabib fight McGregor & Ferguson in one nightGet the Full StoryCould a one-night, lightweight tournament take the UFC to new heights in 2018? "Conor and Tony are nothing," Khabib Nurmagomedov said after making mincemeat of Edson Barboza at UFC 219 on Saturday. "It does not matter to me which one I get next. If the UFC will allow me, I will fight them both on the same night."
Was Khabib Nurmagomedov's post-fight celebration too far-fetched to even be considered, or is the Dagestani fighter onto something? Perhaps something BIG. Perhaps a pay-per-view smashing, four-man UFC lightweight tournament in Russia, or New York's Madison Square Garden, featuring 'The Eagle', 'The Notorious', 'El Cucuy', and Stockton's own Nate Diaz.
It's 2018, and times are a-changin'.
Especially in the UFC, where new owners WME-IMG, a mega-talent agency housing some of the biggest celebrity names in Hollywood, bought MMA's premiere promotion for a whopping 4 billion in 2016. The following year Conor McGregor, the UFC's flagship star, fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the boxing ring and participated in one of the biggest fights in combat sports history, reportedly securing 4.3 million domestic PPV buys and generating over 600 million in total revenue.
If Ari Emanuel co-CEO of WME-IMG and the new UFC heads want to make a return on their multi-billion dollar investment, they must house a Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather-like spectacle under the UFC banner. They're going to have to dream BIG, and what could be bigger than a one night, four-man tournament featuring their golden Irish goose and three of the biggest names and contenders in the lightweight division?
But, let's rewind a little and flashback to UFC 219, where Nurmagomedov, a 29-year-old wrecking machine from Dagestan, Russia, pulverized top-four contender Barboza over the course of three rounds in the co-main event at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena and extended his unbeaten streak to 25-0.
Nurmagomedov, the UFC's mini-Cain Velasquez, has fought just three times in the past three and half years, having been sidelined due to injuries and grueling weight cuts. The Sambo powerhouse has promised to fight another three times in 2018 and seemingly has no problem fighting Tony Ferguson and McGregor on the same night -- although, perhaps that was the adrenaline and endorphins speaking.
Or, perhaps not .
And why not throw in a Nate Diaz for good measure?
A one-night mega-tournament, with the possibility of a trilogy bout with McGregor, could be the only thing to lure the 32-year-old back into the Octagon.
Diaz submitted McGregor at UFC 196 -- handing the Irishman his first and only loss in the UFC -- but hasn't fought since he lost a majority decision in the epic welterweight rematch at UFC 202. The Californian has moaned and groaned about the UFC's subsequent fight offers and, like his older brother, Nick Diaz, will only return for what he feels is the right paycheck and star-studded opportunity.
The UFC's last one-night tournament, UFC 19, took place at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall in November 1999, which saw Japanese fighter Kenichi Yamamoto crowned middleweight tournament champion. Head promoter Dana White has insisted that he will never host another one-night tournament, due to fighter health and safety and increased risk of injury and exhaustion. While that is a legitimate concern, and fighter safety should be of paramount importance, limiting each of the tournament bouts to three, five-minute rounds, means finalists would fight in the Octagon for no more than 30 minutes. It could be a measured solution to reduce the risk of injury and uphold fighter safety.
McGregor, the official UFC lightweight champion, could square off with Diaz in a trilogy bout, while Ferguson, the interim lightweight champion, would finally get to lock horns with the undefeated Nurmagomedov. All on the same night. All under one roof.
It would undoubtedly be the biggest pay-per-view event of the year and possibly the biggest UFC extravaganza of all time.