Who will be the next Russian UFC champion after Khabib Nurmagomedov retired?Will one of Khabib Nurmagomedov”s pupils be a champion?
A proud son of Dagestan, Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from MMA following his UFC 254 win over Justin Gaethje. Since he hung up his gloves, many have wondered who the next Russian champion would be, given how much talent the UFC has from that part of the world.
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In the UFC, Russia has had only two UFC champions in Nurmagomedov and Petr Yan, but we picked out five more that have a shot at UFC gold in the future.
Zabit Magomedsharipov could be the next Russian fighter to fight for a UFC title.
The sixth-ranked featherweight is likely one win away from a title shot, and he has been rumored to fight Yair Rodriguez in his next bout. Yet, with the Mexican currently out with a USADA suspension, the Russian could fight fourth-ranked Chan Sung Jung and get a title shot if he wins that.
Unfortunately for Magomedsharipov, he hasn”t fought since November 2019, and his title charge has lost momentum as a consequence. He also has question marks surrounding his cardio and whether or not he can go five rounds.
Although both Magomedsharipov and Nurmagomedov are from Dagestan, they don”t share any relationship. They don”t train together, but both men have openly talked about each other and how they respect the other one.
Magomed Ankalaev has a big advantage over the rest of the Russians to be the next champion given the division in which he fights. The 28-year-old from Dagestan competes in the light heavyweight division, which is very thin.
Ankalaev is currently 14-1 as a pro and ranked 11th at light heavyweight. The Russian is on a five-fight winning streak, and coming off a brutal knockout win over Ion Cutelaba at UFC 254. His next fight is as of yet unconfirmed, but he should be booked against a top-ten opponent, and he could be two-to-three wins away from a title shot.
Despite both of them being from Dagestan, Ankalaev and Nurmagomedov do not have a relationship with one another.
Askar Askarov will have the biggest fight of his career in March at UFC 259, as the undefeated Russian flyweight will take on Joseph Benavidez.
Given how shallow flyweight is, Askarov could easily be fighting for the title with a win over Benavidez. The 28-year-old made his UFC debut in September 2019, and fought Brandon Moreno to a draw. He then submitted Tim Elliott at UFC 246 before beating Alexandre Pantoja in July.
Askarov has phenonemal wrestling and grappling, which is how he tends to win most of his fights. However, his striking is underrated as he showed in the fight with Moreno; he can get into a firefight and still have success.
Although Askarov trains in Dagestan, the fomer ACB flyweight champion doesn”t have a relationship with Khabib Nurmagomedov. He trains out of Berkut FC with the likes of Muslim Salikhov and Murad Abdulaev.
Last but certainly not least is undefeated bantamweight Umar Nurmagomedov.
The 24-year-old is currently 12-0 as a pro and coming off a submission win over Braian Gonzalez at GFC 20 in November 2019. Since then, the former PFL fighter was signed to the UFC, but he has yet to make his debut for the company. This is despite having fights booked for multiple dates across the year, varying factors scuppering each bout. Although he is talented, it may take a few years for Umar to become a title challenger given how deep bantamweight is.
Umar Nurmagomedov is also the cousin of Khabib as well as one of his main training partners. They grew up training with one another in Dagestan, and he uses his wrestling like Khabib to dominate fights.
Even though Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, Russian MMA in the UFC is still alive and well, and these five have the potential to make Russia proud.