The UFC has yet to touch down on Russian shores, but Irish sensation Conor McGregor has teased at fighting undefeated Dagestani Khabib Nurmagomedov in his home country after he’s done with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26.
Nurmagomedov, 28, is one of the most popular fighters in the lightweight division but fellow Russian Artem Lobov, who trains with McGregor in Dublin, Ireland, believes ‘The Eagle’ should be thanking ‘The Notorious’ for all the attention.
According to Lobov, who trains out of SBG Ireland, McGregor has made MMA a ‘hot topic’ in Russia.
“It would be very hard to say who would be the bigger draw in Russia between Khabib and Conor. I honestly feel that Khabib is as big as he is in Russia because of Conor McGregor,” Lobov said, per MMA Fighting’s Peter Carroll.
“As I said, Conor is the guy who has made MMA a hot topic in Russia. More and more Russians started watching the UFC when Conor came along. The more they watched, the more they understood it. Then, all of a sudden you get this Russian guy coming along and of course the Russian people put their support behind him.”
Nurmagomedov, who hasn’t fought since his submission win over Michael Johnson last year, has had injury troubles in the past and Lobov says the Russian fans aren’t happy with his inactivity. The top-ranked lightweight contender pulled out of his interim title bout with Tony Ferguson due to a disastrous weight cut and is expected to be out of action until next year.
“A lot of people in Russian aren’t happy with how Khabib has been behaving with all of his pullouts,” Lobov said. “This isn’t a very manly thing to do, not showing up for a fight. In Russia, the people have been brought up tough. It used to be the Soviet Union. The thing everybody thinks of when they think about Russia is how tough the people are.
“When they see a fighter continuously pulling out, that’s something that they really don’t like. Then they look at a guy like Conor who always shows up and does what he says he’s going to do. That really resonates with the Russian public.”
Meanwhile McGregor, the current UFC lightweight champ, is making final preparations for Mayweather. The 12-round boxing match takes place next week, August 26, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.