Last Saturday night, Anthony Pettis cemented himself as one of the UFC's must-see champions with his sick second round submission victory of former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez. While the win was undoubtedly an impressive one, there is at least one fighter looming in the shadows awaiting his own opportunity to pounce on the division's kingpin.
Undefeated Sambo champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has been calling out Pettis for the better part of the last year, and it appears to have worked, as the Dagestan native is likely next in line for the coveted 155-pound title shot.
Nurmagomedov is patiently awaiting a clean bill of health before he resumes hard training. He injured his knee ahead of a match-up with Donald Cerrone and has since been forced to sit on the sidelines and rehabilitate the injury. However, his spell away from the octagon has clearly not left a dent in his confidence, as he claimed that Pettis is "scared" to fight him.
"I think he (doesn't want) this fight. He's scared," Nurmagomedov told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani following the event. "Before he never said (anything) about me. But I am 6-0 (in the UFC) and the No. 1 contender (with a) 22-0 record. My opponent is scared.
"Showtime is scared."
He did, however, explain that Pettis impressed him with his historic finish of Gilbert Melendez.
"Nobody finished Gilbert Melendez before. It is tough. His kicking is very good; his boxing is very good."
Pettis' absence from the division over the past year-and-a-half has brought about some significant changes to the division. Where once there was a growing list of title challengers for the Roufusport talent, only a couple of names remain that have no lost a fight recently. Nurmagomedov stands tall amongst them, even if he is currently recovering from an injury.
Asked how long it would take for him to get ready for the title fight if his name was called up next, Khabib explained that he would be ready to step in the cage between April and June.
"Now I (began) my striking, running, lifting, everything. In January, I will begin wrestling and my doctor said that I could fight in April or May. Lets do it."