As an active fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov was one of the most influential figures in mixed martial arts. It appears he will continue to be one in his retirement.
Nurmagomedov, 33, announced on Wednesday that his MMA promotion, Eagle FC, has signed former UFC lightweight Kevin Lee to an exclusive contract. In addition to signing Lee, Nurmagomedov revealed his company 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 campaigned — unsuccessfully — for the addition of a 165-pound weight class.
“I think it’s going to be big news for a lot of fighters around the world,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “I know a lot of fighters want 165. A lot of fighters can’t make 155 and they are a little small at 170.
“Honestly, this is not only about Kevin Lee. This is about a lot of fighters. I know because when I was a fighter, how I was feeling in there and I was talking with a lot of fighters around the world, they were asking, ‘Why other promotions — UFC, Bellator, PFL — why they not make 165?'”
Nurmagomedov even encouraged UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier to join his new 165-pound weight class. Poirier is signed to the UFC and just came up short in a title bid against Charles Oliveira at UFC 269 last weekend in Las Vegas.
Born in Dagestan, Nurmagomedov purchased Eagle FC in 2020. His promotion is holding its first U.S.-based event on Jan. 28 in Miami. The retired former champ says he has big plans for his promotion, and expects it to be a global brand.
“I have so much knowledge and I can share my knowledge with a lot of people,” Nurmagomedov said. “I can make comfortable position for a lot of fighters around the world. Right now, we are going to create a new system. You guys will know very soon about this platform, where fighters will be happy. More happy than they’ve been with other organizations. Nothing against our big brothers, but this business have to move on.”