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Khabib Nurmagomedov: Junior dos Santos vs. Fedor Emelianenko still ‘viable’ despite injury loss, wants co-promotion for end of 2022

Former Russian MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov press conference in Moscow Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t want the unfortunate end to Junior dos Santos’ Eagle FC debut to change plans for a potential co-promoted bout against Fedor Emelianenko.

Dos Santos suffered a third-round shoulder injury on Friday in the main event of Eagle FC 47, bringing his bout with Yorgan De Castro to a premature halt in his first appearance since his UFC departure. Dos Santos was likely ahead at the time of the injury, however with the ex-UFC heavyweight champion unable to continue, De Casto ultimately earned a TKO victory.

Nurmagomedov and Bellator president Scott Coker had both publicly flirted with the idea of a co-promoted matchup between the two heavyweight luminaries prior to Friday’s bout, and even though dos Santos lost due to injury, Nurmagomedov still likes the idea.

“I think it’s still viable,” Nurmagomedov told The UG after Eagle FC 47, “because even if he lost, Junior looked amazing. Everybody see tonight, he’s improved a lot and he was looking amazing. And I think it’s still interesting. I think for his shoulder, [as an] athlete — because I know when you have an injury, what you need, how many months you need to recover, everything — I think if he makes this next week, surgery, I think definitely he needs surgery.

“I’m not a doctor, but I see a lot of injuries inside the gym like this with shoulders, with knees. I think after three or four months, he can come back to sparring, and at the end of the year we can make this fight. Next week I’m going to sit with Scott Coker and we’re going to discuss about this fight.”

The result of Eagle FC 47’s main event was another unfortunate break for dos Santos, adding to the frustration of a fighter who exited the UFC in early 2021 on the heels of four straight losses.

Prior to his injury, dos Santos was chopping down De Casto’s legs and finding his rhythm in a more competitive fight than he’s been in since his 2019 win over Derrick Lewis.

Despite the end result, the performance left Nurmagomedov impressed.

“Junior was looking amazing,” Nurmagomedov said. “[For a] long time, I didn’t see [him look like] how he looked like tonight. He was looking very good. I think it was maybe his best shape in the last couple years, maybe five, six years. But it is what it is, you know? This is a very tough sport. You can’t even blink in this sport when you’re inside the cage, because I know how it is being inside the cage, standing with someone [who’s] a professional athlete in front of you. It’s very dangerous and you have to stay focused every single second.”

De Castro also called for the Emelianenko bout in his post-fight interview, imploring Nurmagomedov to book the matchup and declaring his willingness to sign on the dotted line as soon as Saturday. And though that doesn’t appear to be in the cards for “The Mad Titan,” a matchup for the inaugural Eagle FC heavyweight may have to suffice.

“He was looking good too,” Nurmagomedov said. “De Castro showed his heart. He’s mentally a very strong fighter today, and he won. It’s a question of how, but he won. And I think maybe it’s going to be a good matchup, De Castro vs. Rizvan Kuniev, fight for the title, and we work on this Junior vs. Fedor [for the] end of this year.”

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Are you interested in Junior dos Santos vs. Fedor Emelianenko?

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  • 64%
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