With the dust settling after UFC 254 and the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov, one can not help but think about all the great Khabib matchups that we will likely never see. Unlike in the sport of boxing, MMA has fortunately managed to make many of the dream fights happen when they are contextually the most relevant. However, there have been a few great matchups that have slipped through the octagon cracks and into the speculatory abyss. So here are 5 MMA fights that unfortunately never came to fruition.
#5 George St. Pierre VS Khabib Nurmagomedov
A fight between former welterweight and middleweight champion George St. Pierre and Former Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would have been an incredible fight. Both fighters have powerful offensive and defensive wrestling. GSP would pose many challenges for the undefeated Khabib. GSP fought his entire career at higher weight classes, and when even seemingly outsized, he consistently found ways to neutralized his opponents. GSP an incredible jab coupled with a reach advantage would seemingly present a stylistic challenge for Nurmagomedov.
Khabib however is an unstoppable force inside the octagon. Walking through powerful strikers like Conor McGregor Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza, to chain and secure powerful takedowns is not a style that GSP has faced before. Coupled with long layoffs, approaching 40 years of age, and dropping down to a lower weight class, would indicate sizeable disadvantages against the french Canadian fighter.
#4 Fedor Emelianenko Vs Randy Couture
Fans new to MMA will never understand the hype and mystique that surrounded Fedor Emelianenko. He is probably the greatest fighter to never fight inside the UFC. From 2001 to 2009 he remained undefeated at heavyweight. During this period, he defeated the likes of Semmy Schilt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira x2, Kazuyuki Fujita, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Coleman, Mark Hunt, Matt Lindland, Hong Man Choi, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski. His stoic nature combined with his violent and explosive fighting style only augmented “The Last Emperor’s” legend.
During the same time period, another fighter was quickly gaining notoriety at both light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions inside the UFC organization. Despite a late start in the sport, Randy “The Natural” Couture quickly climbed the ranks and fought the whos who inside the octagon. Once joining the UFC in 2001, Randy defeated Pedro Rizzo x2, Chuk Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort, Tim Sylvia, Gabriel Gonzaga, Brandon Vera, and Mark Coleman.
At the time one could find legions of passionate fans who would argue either side of this matchup. If the UFC could have made this fight happen, it would have been one of the biggest fights in the sports history.
#3 George St. Pierre VS Anderson Silva
Back when George St. Pierre was the 170lb champion and Anderson Silva was the 185lb champion, the MMA community would consistently debate who was the better fighter between the two living legends. At the time, this was considered the pinnacle of the striker vs grappler matchup. Both fighters were obviously significantly more well rounded and advanced than this label suggests, yet they still did have their respective stylistic strengths.
In his prime, Anderson Silva would pull incredible moves that would seem to be out of the Matrix. A perfect example of this would be the infamous fight between Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin.
Anderson went on an epic undefeated run between 2006 – 2012. During this time he defeated notable fighters like Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt, Rich Franklin x2, Dan Henderson, James Irvin, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Forest Griffin, Damian Maia, Chael Sonnen x2, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami, and Stephan Bonnar.
St. Pierre has not tasted defeat since his loss to Matt Serra in 2007. During George St. Pierre’s incredible run, he achieved notable victories over Josh Koscheck x2, Matt Hughes, Matt Sera, Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, and Johny Hendricks.
When they were both in their respective primes, most MMA fans would have considered Anderson to be the favorite. however, this fight was perhaps even more competitive than fans originally imagined. After a 4 year lay off, GSP came back to win the middleweight belt against Michael Bisping.
#2 Brock Lesnar VS Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor Emelianenko has continued to defy father time and kept stacking wins outside of the UFC. From 2009 – 2020. With wins over Jeff Monson, Pedro Rizzo, Fabio Maldonado, Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, and Quinton Jackson, his resume has only continued to grow in his twilight fighting years.
When the UFC signed Brock Lesnar, it set the MMA world ablaze. The giant WWE superstar was heading over to fight in the UFC’s heavyweight decision. Though losing his UFC debut to former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, he then went on to win 4 straight victories. Those wins included Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin.
Even today, this would be a gigantic fight. Even though it would be hard to not make Fedor the favorite in this fight, it would still be incredibly awesome to see the face off.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov VS Tony Ferguson
With Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov retiring after his submission win over number 1 contender Justin Gaethje at 254, MMA fans will most likely never see this fascinating matchup. At one time this would have been the biggest lightweight fight in the history of MMA. During his undefeated reign, Khabib has amassed wins over, Gleison Tibau, ThiagoTavares, Pat Healy, Rafealdos Anjos, Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje.
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson was considered the boogyman of the UFC’s lightweight division. Until losing to Justin Gaethje in May of 2020, Ferguson was undefeated since October of 2013. El Cucuy was undefeated for over 7 years! During this period, Tony Ferguson claimed notable victories over Gleison Tibau, Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis, and Donald Cerrone.
The UFC tried several times to make this fight happen. In fact, the fight was booked again, and was supposed to happen this year. Of course, it took a global pandemic to shut it down for the 5th time. When this fight was first announced back almost 5 years ago, many fans thought that Tony was the one fighter to beat Khabib. At the time this was probably very accurate. However, after seeing the last performance by Nurmagovmedov, and his complete dismantling of the talented and dangerous Justin Gaethje, it is unlikely that there is anyone at lightweight that could take “The Eagle’s” throne.
What Did We Miss?
Well there is our top 5 fights in MMA that never happened! There are undoubtedly other exciting fights that were not mentioned on this list. What were your favorite fights that never came to fruition?