Fighters lined up on Tuesday, all in anticipation that they would be the one to replace Rafael dos Anjos as Conor McGregor's opponent for UFC 196.
One of those was the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov.
On such short notice, the Dagestani would undoubtedly have been one of the toughest opponents for Conor McGregor.
Somewhat suspiciously, Dana White laughed off the possibility that the 22-0 Nurmagomedov would step in to replace dos Anjos, citing the fact he hasn't fought in two years as the main reason.
Nurmagomedov's father, also his trainer, has another theory as to why Nate Daiz was chosen to fight McGregor on March 5th.
Speaking to MixedMartialArts.com, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov said he believed it was the UFC's plan all along to have Diaz fight McGregor. His reasoning: the UFC put nowhere near as much resources into promoting the dos Anjos fight as they did what supposed to be Aldo vs McGregor at UFC 189.
There are a lot of questions around the Dos Anjos injury. If you remember how good they promoted the fight versus Aldo. But they didn't promote the RDA fight like this. It’s like they knew before that he would fight with Diaz. You can say a lot of things around McGregor, the company is working on his name. And we are ready any time in the future to show that he isn't a guy who can be on top of the Lightweight division.
The 27-year-old is scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson in April, so he certainly would have been in shape for a fight.
Nurmagomedov's father feels his son's wrestling ability would overwhelm McGregor.
When Khabib heard that Rafael Dos Anjos was injured, he asked his manager to call the UFC about him fighting McGregor. The only one question was weight. There was no time to cut to 155 lbs. But McGregor always said that he will fight everybody. He said he wants to fight Robbie Lawler. If there is no question about weight, Khabib said he was ready. The UFC started to talk about Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, but not Khabib. Their answer was that they could not give him the fight at 170 lbs. But we know what happened afterwards; they gave the fight at 170 to Nate Diaz. Why Nate Diaz, but not Khabib?!
A fight with McGregor will be easiest in Lightweight division for Khabib. Everybody saw what Chad Mendes did to McGregor, but he only did it for one round. We can do the same for three rounds, or five rounds. This guy is very easy for us. We have another level of grappling and ground control. Nobody can play that game with Khabib. We will do what we want in this fight.
The two easiest fights for Khabib are Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. Khabib’s style is very dangerous for these guys. But Khabib doesn't decide; the company does. And they decided Diaz, because for them it’s easier to promote two guys who always talk a lot. It’s a business fight. But for us, McGregor fight would show how good Khabib is.