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Khabib ‘80% certain’ next fight will be in Russia as UFC champ eyes record-smashing home crowd

Khabib ‘80% certain’ next fight will be in Russia as UFC champ eyes record-smashing home crowd
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov says he is “80 percent” sure that his next title defense will take place in his Russian homeland, with two venues in mind that would potentially smash crowd records for the promotion.

Nurmagomedov submitted interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi earlier this month to improve his perfect record to 28-0.

READ MORE: Poirier UFC shirt worn by Khabib raises $100K for charity

Speaking to Russia’s Channel 1, the Dagestani fighter said that talks were already underway with UFC bosses about his next bout.   

“Negotiations are continuing with the UFC. I really want to fight in Russia,” the 30-year-old said.  

“In St. Petersburg there’s a closed arena [Gazprom Arena].

"In Moscow, Luzhniki Stadium is open… I was there at the [football] World Cup final when it rained, if that kind of rain happened it would ruin an [MMA] event.

“In St. Petersburg the stadium seats 75,000 people, I could fight there. In a small arena it wouldn’t work.

“I really want to fight here, talks are continuing, I’m about 80 percent sure my next fight will be in Russia,” he added. 

The current UFC crowd record is just over 56,000, set in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia, when Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm headlined UFC 193.

When asked whether he could influence UFC chief Dana White about where he next takes to the octagon, Nurmagomedov said he could merely offer advice while pointing to his huge popularity in his homeland.    

“I don’t want to put pressure on [Dana White]. I can only give him advice.

“He sees the ratings himself, on Channel 1 [in Russia], from UFC 242, not only in Russia but around the world. I want to fight in front of the fans here.”   

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Nurmagomedov has not graced the cage in his home country since joining the UFC in 2012, while his fight in Abu Dhabi was only his third outside the US with the organization.

The indications are that the Dagestani grappler will next face long-term rival Tony Ferguson, who himself is on a 12-fight winning streak.

The pair have been scheduled to face each other on no fewer than four previous occasions, with illness or injury to one or other of the fighters conspiring to scupper the bout each time.

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Nurmagomedov has said that fights with Ferguson and Canadian MMA legend Georges St-Pierre would be crucial to securing his “legacy” in the sport, while his manager Ali Abdelaziz said recently that the latter of the pair would be next up for ‘The Eagle’.

Commenting on whether he would be content with retiring at the 30-0 mark – something his father and trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov recently alluded to, Khabib said that the number would be “good as a minimum.”

Also on rt.com ‘For Khabib 30-0 is enough, he wants his last fight in Moscow’ – Nurmagomedov Sr.
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