Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the newest names in the ever-growing list of mixed martial arts fighters hampered by injuries.
Unfortunately for the athlete, the knee injury that has forced him out of competition came at a time when he was surging toward the top of the lightweight division.
Even though he's still months away from returning to the Octagon, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has a number of opponents waiting to welcome him back. However, one of the most interesting options isn't on the UFC's roster at this time.
That man is current Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
Since joining the UFC back in 2012, “The Eagle” has run his undefeated streak to 22 victories. The Russian native has propelled himself to a point where he is one of the premier fighters at 155 pounds, and he's currently the No. 3-ranked lightweight in the promotion behind Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez, per UFC.com.
In order to obtain the title shot that has eluded him to this point, Nurmagomedov should be placed against Alvarez, as it would be a challenging bout for both of them.
Alvarez is still under contract with Bellator, but that did not stop the UFC from attempting to bring him over to face Donald Cerrone at UFC 178, per Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog. That fight would eventually fall apart, as Cerrone is now scheduled to face Bobby Green. However, that doesn't mean the UFC should end their pursuit of Alvarez.
Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie reported that at the time of Nurmagomedov's injury in July he would be out of action for at least six months. During this period the UFC could work on their negotiations with Bellator to reach an agreement to bring over their lightweight champion. The companies would have their work cut out for them, but earlier efforts show that they are willing to negotiate.
Scott Coker recently addressed the situation with Alvarez’s contract with Bellator. "Right now, where it's at today is Eddie's still a fighter under contract with Bellator." Scott Coker told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "I know that lawyers are involved, and that's something that happened way before I came to this company. Right now, I don't have an update for you on that."
Alvarez would present an interesting challenge for Nurmagomedov if they were to actually meet in the Octagon. To this point, Nurmagomedov has been able to overwhelm his opponents within the UFC with effective grappling.
Alvarez uses an aggressive style of a different nature, where he stays on his opponents, looking to land boxing combinations and use his wrestling when possible. Nurmagomedov has yet to face an opponent in the UFC who uses such a style, so a fight against Alvarez would be a clear change of pace for him.
From a business perspective, this fight makes sense for the organization as well. Alvarez has never shied away from promoting himself or the fights that he's involved in. He would have the ability to carry much of the needed media work for a fight against Nurmagomedov.
A win for either fighter would create enough credibility for them to be considered a No. 1 contender to fight the winner of the upcoming Anthony Pettis–Gilbert Melendez fight with the title. If the UFC were able to set this match up it would work as a co-main event for a pay-per-view card in 2015.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was very near to earning a shot at the UFC lightweight title before suffering a knee injury last month. As the promotion awaits his return, they can use this time to sign Eddie Alvarez and create the best fight possible to welcome Alvarez to the UFC and Nurmagomedov back from the injured list all at once.