UFC: Khabib Nurmagomedov Looking to Face a Bigger Name than Michael Johnson

By Rick LaFitte
Khabib Nurmagomedov
Tom Szczerbowski USA TODAY Sports

Michael Johnson is far from being on anyone’s list when it comes to top UFC lightweight contenders, but it’s clear he has designs to raise his profile. Riding a two-fight win streak, Johnson recently called out Nate Diaz for a fight and also offered his services for a fight against undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov. The promotion has had a hard time finding an opponent for the “The Eagle” after a highly anticipated matchup against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 170 ended up falling apart. Melendez for his part says he would still like the fight, but the timing didn’t work. Diaz and the UFC got into a he said-he said spat on social media after President Dana White said he turned down the fight against Nurmagomedov and Diaz angrily denied it.

“The Menace” has put together successful, impressive winning efforts against Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau to move into top-15 territory. He looked terrific at UFC 168 in finishing the normally durable Tibau via strikes in the second round. Johnson has taken his game to a new level and has certainly looked like a far better fighter than what his career record of 14-8 would indicate.

Unfortunately, the 21-0 Nurmagomedov isn’t interested in a fight against Johnson. He took to Twitter to say while Johnson is a good fighter, he’s lost 60 percent of his fights so he will wait for him at the top. While his math if obviously off in this case, it’s clear that the Russian Combat Sambo ace doesn’t think Johnson has done enough to warrant the fight and is looking for a more high-profile name after handily beating veteran Pat Healy at UFC 165 in what was his fifth straight Octagon triumph. However, it does debunk White’s theory that no one wants to fight him. Not surprisingly, Johnson didn’t take kindly to the dig, criticizing Nurmagomedov’s level of competition so far.

In my opinion there would have been nothing wrong with a Johnson-Nurmagomedov matchup. “The Eagle” sits at No. 7 in the UFC’s 155-pound lightweight division while “The Menace” sits at No. 13. It would have had the makings of an entertaining scrap. The pointing out of records to deem an opponent unworthy seems a little off base as well. While Johnson is 14-8, he’s never looked better and was willing to step in to give Nurmagomedov a fight and a payday.

In the end, Johnson’s recent performances and no-fear approach should land him a high-profile fight next. As for Nurmagomedov, it’ll be very interesting to see who does get the next opportunity to try and knock him from the ranks of the undefeated.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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