The first-ever UFC show in Russia is set to happen as early as September, as the event has already been scheduled in one of the biggest arenas in Moscow, RT Sport has learned from the venue.
Staff at Moscow’s Olympiyskiy Stadium (Olympic Stadium), which has a capacity of up to 35,000 spectators, confirmed to RT Sport that a UFC show is booked at the venue for September 14 and 15.
The UFC has yet to announce the news, but the possibility of a show in Russia was first raised by the promotion’s president, Dana White, at a press conference following the UFC 205 event at Madison Square Garden, New York, back in November 2016.
Russia’s most popular fighter, undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was victorious on the UFC 205 card against Michael Johnson, has long been rumored to headline an event in Moscow.
The possibility of a Moscow show was also earlier fueled by current lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who reportedly asked UFC chief White to organize a bout with the undefeated Nurmagomedov in Russia last summer.
“You know what Conor told me? He said, ‘I want Khabib in Russia,’” White said in June, just two weeks after confirmation of McGregor’s much-hyped boxing match with ring legend Floyd Mayweather.
The news of a Moscow event in September appears to bring the chance of a Nurmagomedov-McGregor matchup a step closer.
The Russian recently made a dominant comeback to the UFC octagon after a one-year break, beating one of the best strikers in the lightweight division, Brazil’s Edson Barboza, via unanimous decision.
As the number two-ranked fighter in the lightweight division, Nurmagomedov appears to have only two fight options ahead of him: interim champion Tony Ferguson, and McGregor, who hasn’t defended his belt since winning at UFC 205, where he beat Eddie Alvarez by way of technical knockout.
Although it’s not clear if Nurmagomedov will take part in the planned Moscow event, the 29-year-old Dagestan native hinted at “big news” to come on his Instagram page two days ago.
It remains to be seen if a Nurmagomedov fight in Moscow will come to fruition, but Russian fight fans are certainly eager to see the world’s largest MMA promotion in the country’s capital, with a matchup against McGregor surely top of most people’s list.
by Denis Geyko for RT Sport