MMA Star Nurmagomedov Could Be Key To UFC Expanding Into Russian Market
MMA is becoming "hugely popular and growing fast" in Russia, and the UFC could "piggyback off the popularity of an established star" in Khabib Nurmagomedov, according to Martin Rogers of USA TODAY. Nurmagomedov, perhaps the "most feared man in the lightweight division," faces Brazil’s Edson Barboza at UFC 219 this Saturday. A win in that match would put Nurmagomedov in "line for a championship shot at lightweight." The UFC in Russia "could be a perfect match." Nurmagomedov said, "UFC has to come and make a deal. They have to begin now and after a couple years they can make a lot of money with this." Rogers notes "not much gets done in Russia without the approval" of President Vladimir Putin. Nurmagomedov: "They have to come and work. Business in Russia is very hard. But the government always likes (martial arts). Putin comes to shows and watches fights. He loves MMA." UFC President Dana White has previously said that he would "'definitely' seek expansion into Russia and identified it as a boom market." Conor McGregor has told White he would be "prepared to face Nurmagomedov in Russia, provided, of course, that the price was right" (USA TODAY, 12/28).