Khabib retirement at UFC 254 throws lightweight division wide open with five main contenders including Conor McGregor

KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV'S shock retirement has thrown the lightweight division wide open.

The undefeated Russian cemented his reputation as one of the world's best with a second round submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

With a record of 29-0 to his name, Khabib promised his mother he would not fight without his father who died during the summer following a bout of coronavirus.

And his absence from the Octagon means the lightweight title now remains vacant.

Despite UFC president Dana White admitting last night he 'has no idea' what the future holds, SunSport have named five contenders set to battle it out for the lightweight title.

Justin Gaethje

Despite losing at UFC 254, the American remains the interim challenger for the belt.

He threw himself into contention with a win over Tony Ferguson in May and is already eyeing up his next scrap.

After his defeat, he said: "With him retiring, I'm No 1.

"I'm ready to fight again. This is my job. This is my life. I love it so much."

Now he will sit back and wait to see who his title shot will be against…

Conor Mcgregor

Despite retiring three times, the Notorious is locked in talks to announce a stunning comeback against Dustin Poirier in January.

It is expected that the winner of that fight is likely to take on Gaethje for the vacant belt.

McGregor, 32, won the lightweight title in 2016 when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez before surrendering it Khabib.

The Crumlin superstar beat Poirier in 2014 and will fancy his chances of repeating his success.

Gaethje called out McGregor on Saturday by saying: "Poirier and McGregor are going to fight. They haven't made it official, so if McGregor wants to bounce out and get the belt, then I'm right here."

Dustin Poirier

He has already accepted a fight with McGregor on January 23 and now contracts need to be signed.

Poirier will certainly feel he deserves his title shot as he currently sits second in the lightweight rankings behind Gaethje.

The 31-year-old knocked out Gaethje in 2018 but lost his title shot to Khabib in September last year.

He has a record of 26-6-0 after bouncing back in his last fight with a win over Dan Hooker.

Tony Ferguson

Ferguson had FIVE fights with Khabib scrapped due to various reasons and now it appears he may have lost his chance to fight the Russian.

His chances of becoming lightweight king took a major blow when he lost to Gaethje in May.

Khabib's coach Javier Mendez already hinted Khabib would be willing to fight Ferguson before his retirement announcement.

He said: "Tony would be a good reason to keep Khabib on track. In his heart I think Khabib wants to give Tony the opportunity."

But at the moment, Ferguson has been left in the dark over his next bout.

Michael Chandler

The UFC signed Chandler after his Bellator contract expired, where he had spent nine years and enjoyed three title reigns.

Chandler, 34, was on Fight Island on standby for the main event despite never fighting in UFC before.

He had hoped to face Poirier or Ferguson – but neither came to fruition.

However his chance will surely come soon and he believes he will hold the lightweight belt in 12 months time.

He said: "You make the best decision you can with the opportunities you have in front of you and the information that you have.

“Here we are, and I think I’m going to be UFC lightweight champion in the next 12 months.”

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