Ultimate Fighting Championship

Trouble in 155: What’s next for UFC’s lightweight division?

Leigh Nald Cabildo
Trouble in 155: What’s next for UFC’s lightweight division?

UPSET. Conor McGregor suffers a stunning knockout loss to Dustin Poirier in his first UFC fight in a year.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Handout Photo/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

With UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov still unwilling to come back and Conor McGregor losing, the stacked lightweight division is left in limbo

Last week, reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov opened up to UFC president Dana White about his potential return to the octagon if he will be impressed by the lightweight contenders in UFC 257.

Dustin Poirier stunned Conor McGregor with a second-round knockout in the main event, while Michael Chandler also had an outstanding knockout, and a backflip, against Dan Hooker.

The prospects did impress the audience, but not Nurmagomedov.

Despite the impressive outcomes from Poirier and Chander – two of the top lightweight prospects – White said Nurmagomedov’s return will most likely not happen.

“I did talk to Khabib, and he said to me, ‘Dana be honest to yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys,'” White said in the post-fight conference. “I don’t know [his decision], but it doesn’t sound very positive.”

With Nurmagomedov most likely out of the picture, White said that a Poirier-Chandler bout for the title might happen in the future. 

But for Poirier, a fight against Chandler does not make any sense. 

“Respect to Chandler,” Poirier said. “Great win, but to come in and beat a guy I just beat and get a title shot? I don’t know what’s next, I’ll talk to Dana and the UFC, talk about what makes sense, but I can guarantee I would not fight Michael Chandler.”

“It’s just my feelings towards the division and the sport,” Poirier added. “I’m the champ. I’m not going to fight a new guy in the UFC – who just beat a guy who came from a loss and I just beat – for the belt. That’s not exciting to me.”

Instead of Chandler, who just made his UFC debut, the former interim lightweight titleholder Poirier thinks that Brazilian grappler Charles Oliveira is a better fit for a fight against him.

Oliveira threw his name in the hat for potential title challengers after his impressive victory against Tony Ferguson last December.

“I’ve been watching [Oliveira] for 10 years in the UFC,” Poirier said. “He’s fought the best of the best over and over again and he’s been knocked down and got up time and time again. He’s proven himself and I respect that.” 

“Not that I don’t respect Michael Chandler, I just think there’s more work for him to do than beat the guy that I just beat,” Poirier added.

For Chandler, though, the idea of facing Poirier next for the title sounds different. The former Bellator champion had nothing but praise to Poirier and said he’ll be ready to fight as soon as possible.

“There is no man in this roster that I respect the most more than Dustin Poirier,” Chandler said. “Borderline a fan of the man. He’s the kind of guy that I would love to go and step within that octagon and beat the crap out of him for 25 minutes. He’s one of the good ones.”

“If that’s what Dana wants, who am I to let him down? I took zero damage in this fight, I’m ready to go out there and compete again as soon as possible,” Chandler said.

Following his fast rise to the top of the lightweight division, Chandler openly challenged Nurmagomedov for the title.

“You guys heard me, I would love Khabib to come back,” Chandler said. “I get it, I haven’t earned the right for him to think that he’s not levels above me yet, which is just that performance.”

“But I promise you, I can beat that man. I promise you if he steps in the octagon with me, he’ll be 29 and Chandler and not 30-0,” he added.

Despite his hunger for a championship, Chandler understands that he might need to wait for his call for the gold strap.

“I don’t deserve to necessarily be calling any shots right now,” Chandler said. “I have one win in the UFC. You just had Dustin finish Conor, we have Khabib, [but I’m] not quite sure if he is coming back … I’m not here to call shots. I’m here to capture that UFC gold.”

Aside from the two UFC 257 winners and Oliveira, other contenders like Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos also look to have a crack at the lightweight crown.

Gaethje recently fought for the title and lost to Nurmagomedov last October in UFC 254, while Dos Anjos – a former lightweight champion – returned to the 155-pound division and made his way back into the rankings after a disappointing stint in the welterweight class. – Rappler.com

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