Umar Nurmagomedov defeated Brian Kelleher at UFC 272 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Will the UFC rush Umar Nurmagomedov or practice patience with the rising bantamweight?
Umar Nurmagomedov got his second UFC win on Saturday with a dominant victory over UFC veteran Brian Kelleher. It can’t be overlooked that Nurmagomedov earned the first-round submission win over Kelleher at 145 pounds, which is not Nurmagomedov’s usual weight division.
Nurmagomedov, who normally competes at bantamweight has displayed incredible talent during his brief UFC career and he showed some progression between his first UFC fight and second outing with the promotion. As an example of his improvement, watch how he took Kelleher’s back as opposed to his back takes against Sergey Morozov in his UFC debut in January 2021.
Now, with an unblemished 14-0 professional record and two high-quality UFC victories, the question becomes, how quickly does the UFC look to move the 26-year-old up the bantamweight ladder?
The UFC’s 135-pound division is not the deepest weight class in the promotion and several of the fighters in the top-15 are about to age out of elite status. With that, the UFC could be very aggressive in testing Nurmagomedov. On the other hand, the promotion’s matchmakers could also give him the slow build it is employing with another young fighter in Sean O’Malley (and that’s not to compare the talent level of the two fighters).
Nurmagomedov’s coach, Javier Mendez of American Kickboxing Academy, is high on the future of his fighter and that could mean the cousin of former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will be put on the fast track up the bantamweight division.
“He’s the heir. I am sorry. He’s the heir, he’s gonna win the title. And he’s gonna be a UFC champion. He is the next heir. I’m sorry. He is. He’s just that good, he’s that good,” Mendez told The Schmo.
“He’s gonna win that title. And to be honest with you, I don’t think I have been wrong every time I say someone’s gonna win that title they win. And Umar is gonna be that titleholder at bantamweight… He will be the future bantamweight king,” added Mendez.
If I was handling Nurmagomedov’s career, my goal would be to keep him as active as possible and slowly move him up the division, similar to how the promotion is handling O’Malley — but perhaps advance him a bit more quickly — which will allow him to develop all his skills and become a complete MMA fighter. With his age, there is time to implement that plan.