As an active fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov was one of the most influential figures in mixed martial arts. It appears that it will continue to be so in retirement.
Nurmagomedov, 33, announced Wednesday that his MMA promotion Eagle FC has signed former UFC lightweight Kevin Lee to an exclusive contract. In addition to hiring Lee, Nurmagomedov revealed his company’s plans to permanently open a new 165-pound weight class, a topic of debate in the sport for some time.
Lee (18-7) fought in the UFC from 2014 to 2021. He competed at 155 and 170 pounds, but unsuccessfully campaigned to create and add to a 165-pound weight class.
“I think it will be great news for many fighters around the world,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “I know a lot of fighters want 165. A lot of fighters can’t do 155 and they are a little too small for 170.”
“Honestly, this isn’t just about Kevin Lee. It’s about a lot of fighters. I know that because when I was a fighter, how I felt there and talked to a lot of fighters from all over the world, they were asking, ‘Why other promotions – UFC , Bellator, PFL – why don’t they do 165? ‘
Nurmagomedov even encouraged UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier to join his new 165-pound weight class. Poirier is signed with the UFC and came up short on a lightweight title shot against Charles Oliveira at UFC 269 last weekend in Las Vegas.
Born in Dagestan, Nurmagomedov bought Eagle FC in 2020. His promotion is holding its first US-based event on January 28 in Miami. The former retired champion says he has big plans to promote it and hopes it will be a global brand.
“I have a lot of knowledge and I can share my knowledge with a lot of people,” Nurmagomedov said. “I can create a comfortable position for many fighters around the world. At this time, we are going to create a new system. You will know very soon about this platform, where the fighters will be happy. Happier than they have been with other organizations. Nothing against our older brothers, but this business has to keep going. “