Khabib fires warning to UFC as his promotion lands in America
Khabib Nurmagomedov had a warning for his former employers at the UFC as the Russian icon rolled into Miami for a first America event with his Eagle FC promotion.
Previously known as Gorilla Fighting Championship, Khabib has rebranded the Russia-based MMA organization under his own ‘Eagle’ fighting moniker after purchasing it at the end of 2020.
After a series of successful shows in Russia and Central Asia, the promotion has now landed Stateside with an opening show – Eagle FC 44 – at The FLXcast Arena in Miami on Friday.
Top of the bill is a meeting between Russian heavyweight veteran Sergei Kharitonov and Dutch-Surinamese former kickboxing phenom Tyrone Spong.
Elsewhere, Khabib has snapped up the likes of former UFC stars Rashad Evans, Kevin Lee and Ray Borg as he aims to make inroads in the US market.
Khabib’s arrival comes at a time when UFC boss Dana White is facing increasing calls to improve pay and conditions for his stable of fighters.
When asked at a Thursday press conference how active he would be in pursuing free agents who have finished their time with the UFC and Bellator, Khabib had a warning for rival promotions.
“For big organizations like UFC, Bellator, they have to be careful with their fighters because Eagle FC is here,” said the former UFC lightweight champion.
“Of course, we are trying to sign good athletes, great athletes with good names. At the same time, we are working with the young generation, too. We have two goals. I just want to say be careful. If they don’t treat good fighters, Eagle FC is here.”
Unsurprisingly, Khabib has been front and center of much of Eagle FC’s promotional work but has shrewdly enlisted the likes of fan favorite Chael Sonnen as an analyst.
He has also called on the likes of UFC welterweight ruler Kamaru Usman and former two-weight UFC king Henry Cejudo – who like Khabib have links to MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz – for Eagle FC promotional work this week.
Khabib has promised novelties in his organization which will help it stand out in a crowded market, creating a special “super lightweight” 165-pound division to sit between lightweight and welterweight.
Khabib cited knowledge and experience from his own undefeated career as being a factor in his promotional work.
“I understand this game inside,” Khabib said.
“I was a professional fighter the last 12 years. I hear from a lot of fighters that they really want weight classes at 155, 65, 75, and 85 [lbs]. When I opened this Eagle FC, like, why can’t I do this? Let’s build some new history.”
Khabib maintained a good relationship with UFC boss White during his time with the organization, but White has claimed that the 33-year-old Dagestani will “learn the hard way” just how difficult life is as an MMA promoter – adding he was willing to offer advice if need be.