Khabib Nurmagomedov has Eddie Alvarez’s respect as a fighter — so much so that the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champ wants to fight the current UFC titleholder next.
“The one I want the most out of all of them is Khabib, and it has nothing to do with title,” Alvarez said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I just think right now, timing-wise, he’s the most valuable all them fighters. He’s undefeated, so there’s a mystique that he’s unbeatable, which excites me even more.”
But Alvarez also doesn’t believe Nurmagomedov should be recognized as the legitimate champion. In Alvarez’s mind, the UFC 223 bout between the Russian standout and 11th-ranked Al Iaquinta — despite the unique set of circumstances that led to the matchup with several potential opponents dropping out — should not have been a title matchup.
“If the Philadelphia Eagles show up for the Super Bowl, and New England can’t make it, you don’t bring in the third-place team to play for the Lombardi Trophy,” Alvarez said. “You have to wait and you have be patient. You can’t tell the No. three, four, five guys ‘you get a title shot.’ It just got silly real fast. Everything got silly real fast, and it made the belt quite meaningless.”
But Alvarez is convinced the UFC ownership is so enamored by the potential of making money in Russia that they were going to get the belt on Nurmagomedov one way or another, even if they simply handed it to him.
“You know what no one’s talking about? Khabib talked about fake champions, fake belts., fake this, fake that, and everything is fake, fake, fake,” Alvarez said. “No one said that they were just begging to give him that belt because they had Russia behind him. Russia is going to be an open market soon, and it’s convenient Khabib has the belt.
“Now the guy who says ‘fake champion, fake belt, fake this,’ he has title now,” Alvarez later added. “They should have just handed it to him, the be honest with you. That’s what it looks like.”
Alvarez did confirm that when the original UFC 223 main event of Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fell out due to a knee injury, the UFC contact him to see if he wanted to step in.
However, Alvarez did not feel he could cut weight on just six days’ notice, as he was not in camp due to not having a fight lined up, and had gotten up to about 190 pounds.
“There was no way, I could never make ’55 on a six-day notice, even if I was getting ready for that in that time,” Alvarez said. “My cut starts about 10 days out. I would have already had the foresight and the knowing this was going to happen in order to be able to make that weight. I may not look it, and some people don’t think [it], but I can get as high as 190 because of how much muscle I hold. I lose weight quickly, but I can go up, and I hold a lot of water because of the amount of muscle.”
Alvarez, who has one fight left on his current UFC contract, has not fought since his memorable finish of Justin Gaethje at UFC 217 in November. That means Alvarez’s name constantly comes up when people speculate over potential next fights for the elite competitors at 155 pounds.
But while Alvarez doesn’t think Nurmagomedov is the true champion, a meeting with Khabib — with a full camp, not six days’ notice — is nonetheless the fight he most wants at this stage of the game.
“I just need to fight somebody that I get excited about,” Alvarez said. “I’ve been fighting since I was 19 years old, so just to say, here’s another fight and another guy, there’s got to be something in it for me, I need to be able to get excited about the guy. Wake up early, go to bed late, maybe have a little fear of losing to him, I need to feel that in order to take a fight. I feel like he could be that guy.”