Khabib Nurmagomedov might be retired from the UFC, but he’s as busy as ever.
The undefeated former UFC lightweight champion told ESPN this weekend that his MMA promotion, Eagle FC, is planning an expansion into the United States. Nurmagomedov said Eagle FC will hold an event January in Miami and there is another event being targeted for that city in March.
Nurmagomedov, 33, bought the promotion formerly known as Gorilla Fighting Championship late in 2020. Since December 2020, the rebranded Eagle FC — named after Nurmagomedov’s nickname “The Eagle” — has run 15 events, mostly in his home country of Russia. One was in Kazakhstan and another in Kyrgyzstan.
The January show will be Eagle FC’s debut in the United States, which will give way to several more in the U.S. in 2022, per Nurmagomedov. Eagle FC officials are working with media company FLX on a production facility in Miami that will be called FLX Arena. The Eagle FC events in the U.S. will be run out of that venue and streamed live on the FLXcast app.
Nurmagomedov, who is considered among the greatest MMA fighters to ever live, said the January show will be “very big,” and several stars are already signed, including veterans of big promotions like UFC and Bellator. A news conference is scheduled for Dec. 15 in Miami for further announcements. He is expecting to sign 50 or more fighters for next year.
“If you want to become big in MMA, you have to be in USA,” Nurmagomedov said. “For fighters, for promotion, you have to be in U.S. If you’re not in U.S., you can never become No. 1 or best. It’s almost impossible.”
Nurmagomedov said he has his own vision for Eagle FC and doesn’t want to be a rival of the likes of the UFC, Bellator, PFL or any other promotions around the world.
“It’s not a secret the UFC is the best in the world,” said Nurmagomedov, who retired with a 29-0 MMA record. “Almost 30 years these guys, the UFC, have done a great show around the world. UFC is a great brand. I don’t want to compete with them or other promotions. I have my principles. I have my view.”
Nurmagomedov said he would play the part of promoter, like UFC president Dana White, at media events and during fighter stare-downs. But he joked he does not want to be completely like White.
“I have hair on my head, first of all,” Nurmagomedov said with a laugh. “I see Dana’s photos when he’s just beginning with the UFC. Now, you can see he don’t have hair on his head. I don’t want to be like Dana.”
In addition to running Eagle FC with CEO Rizvan Magomedov, Nurmagomedov has also become one of the best coaches in MMA since retiring in October 2020. He was undefeated as a cornerman across multiple major promotions in 2021. Nurmagomedov said, beginning in January, he will bring his fighters from Dagestan back to American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. His longtime training partner and childhood friend Islam Makhachev fights Beneil Dariush on Feb. 26 in what is very likely a UFC lightweight title eliminator.
“January, we’re gonna travel,” Nurmagomedov said. “And February, March, we’re gonna hunt. Eagle team is gonna hunt.”
One thing the very busy Nurmagomedov won’t be doing in 2022 — or ever again — is stepping back into the cage, he said. That chapter of his life is closed, Nurmagomedov said, and the UFC cannot offer him anything to make him change his mind.
“Nothing and nobody,” Nurmagomedov said. “We have goals to take back this belt. His name is Islam Makhachev. He [has] to take belt back to Dagestan. I truly believe in him. I truly believe his skill — he can do this. I really believe next — end of the next year — we’re gonna take this belt home.”
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