For a region overflowing with potential prospects and undiscovered talent, Russia is yet to find its first UFC champion in the Zuffa era. Fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko and Alexander Shlemenko successfully reached the pinnacle of their respective promotions, PRIDE and Bellator, at a given time, but none have come close to achieving championship glory in the UFC.
However, undefeated Dagestani fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov, plans to become the first fighter from Russia to become a champion in the UFC. Apart from the personal accomplishment, Khabib believes the impact on Russian MMA overall would be tremendous.
"At home, I am a little bit [of a] star," Khabib stated on The MMA Hour. "A lot of people believe [in] me. I believe I'll take this belt for Russian MMA. If I take this belt, this is very good for me, for my family, for my friends, for my team, and for all Dagestani and Russian people."
With approximately 30 UFC fighters from Russia and the North Caucasus, the region has its fair share of representatives in the promotion, but is yet to prove that they are capable of title contention. Khabib, however, proved his legitimacy when he defeated Rafael dos Anjos last year, the man who currently holds the lightweight title. Aware of this situation, Khabib knows that he must strike while the iron is hot.
"I think this year, I will take this belt. This is very important for me and for people."
However, before he challenges for the title, Khabib will have to overcome one final obstacle in Donald Cerrone at UFC 187. Given that Nurmagomedov is coming off a serious injury layoff that kept him out of action for nearly a year, he is certainly not overlooking the "Cowboy."
"I have a lot of fans in Russia now that believe that I will take this fight and then take the belt. I am in very hard training, I believe in myself, and focus myself on Cowboy before taking the belt."