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Khabib Nurmagomedov targeting return to defend UFC title toward end of 2018

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC lightweight division has no shortage of potential title contenders. And it seems like it’ll have plenty of time to sort itself out before the title gets defended again.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC’s 155-pound champion, wrote Sunday in an Instagram post that he’s not planning a return to the Octagon until November or December. Nurmagomedov just won the UFC strap with a win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 earlier this month in Brooklyn.

“I’m coming back November - December to defend my belt,” Nurmagomedov wrote. “Whoever @ufc decide to fight me with, I’ll sign.”

Just who that will be is very much up in the air. The ideal scenario for the UFC would be Nurmagomedov going up against Conor McGregor, but there are extenuating circumstances there — notably McGregor’s arrest after throwing a dolly at a UFC bus two weeks ago. It’s unclear when McGregor will return, though a matchup with Nurmagomedov — the man who was the target of said dolly — likely has the UFC salivating.

After McGregor, who was stripped of the lightweight title due to inactivity, there’s former interim champ Tony Ferguson, but he is rehabbing after knee surgery. Next up would be the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Dustin Poirier and Kevin Lee, who had a very impressive win Saturday night over Edson Barboza in the main event of UFC Atlantic City.

Lightweight division is the most competitive division in #UFC,” Nurmagomedov wrote. “At this moment, atmosphere is very heated: there is Conor and Tony, Porier, Lee and Alvarez, all of them are good. Fight with any of these guys would be very interesting and competitive.

I never choose opponent, fought with any fighter who was offered me to fight, and I’m not going to change that.”

Even with McGregor’s trouble with the law (his next court date in Brooklyn is June 14), the UFC has a good problem on its hands with an absolutely stacked upper tier of the 155-pound division.