The lightweight division is very likely the most competitive weight class in the UFC, so being crowned champion also comes with a legitimate claim of being the pound-for-pound best after running through a murderers’ row of fighters.
This is exactly what we’ve seen play out with current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as his recent win over Justin Gaethje moved him to 29-0 and to No. 1 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
However, at the conclusion of that second-round submission victory, an emotional Nurmagomedov announced that would be his final fight after the recent passing of his legendary father. Although the belt isn’t considered officially vacant, sportsbooks wasted no time releasing odds on who will be the next UFC lightweight champion and listed Conor McGregor as the favorite.
Online sportsbook [ol-sportsbook-bp:48:Bovada:26:Bodog] has put McGregor at -160 atop the next UFC lightweight champion odds. He’s followed by Dustin Poirier at +175, Tony Ferguson at +700, Michael Chandler at +800 and Justin Gaethje at +1000.
Next UFC Lightweight Champion Odds
Will Nurmagomedov Vacate & Retire?
Those close to him say Khabib Nurmagomedov is a man of his word, so it certainly appears he is done. That said, he and his father had a goal of going to 30-0, including a fight with the legendary Georges St-Pierre. Furthermore, UFC president Dana White has said that emotions played a part the night Nurmagomedov announced his retirement and that he believes “The Eagle” will return to take aim at 30-0.
If Nurmagomedov is to return for an attempt at 30-0, the fight would likely come against GSP, who has said he wouldn’t fight Khabib at lightweight, so perhaps that would come at a catchweight. If so, Nurmagomedov would likely vacate the belt, fight St-Pierre (perhaps at 165 pounds) and then retire.
Why Is McGregor Favored To Be Next Lightweight Champion?
No doubt, Conor “Notorious” McGregor is one of the biggest stars in the UFC, if not the biggest one, so having a belt around his waist only makes sense. McGregor was set to have a big 2020 that began with a dominant first-minute knockout of Donald Cerrone in January, but then the pandemic began, which put him on the shelf.
The Irishman wanted to fight, announced his retirement, suggested exhibition bouts and even proposed a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao. Well, after all that whirlwind to keep his name in the spotlight, he and Dustin Poirier signed an agreement for a bout in January 2021. With the Nurmagomedov retirement news, many believe the title will be on the line for that fight.
I wrote the preview for McGregor vs Poirier, and Notorious was the -180 favorite with the Diamond coming back at +155. I believe that McGregor wins that fight, having already beaten and knocked out Poirier in 2014. So if the belt is in fact on the line for that bout, McGregor would likely be the new UFC lightweight champ.
Who Is Providing Better Value Than McGregor?
Well, you could argue immediately for Dustin Poirier, who would in theory be fighting McGregor for the belt, so if he won at +175, he’s clearly providing better value. All that said, though, I’m not of the belief that those two will be fighting for the strap in that bout but rather a mini-tournament may take place with the juggernauts in that stacked division, which would also keep McGregor engaged and active.
Therefore, I think there is tremendous value on Michael Chandler (+800) and Tony Ferguson (+700), who may fight each other on the McGregor vs Poirier 2 card. One of those guys would have to win and perhaps the title would be on the line in the next bout so 8-to-1 or 7-to-1 is intriguing.
Personally, I think Ferguson beats Chandler, so at +700 that’s where the best value is because even in a fight with McGregor, he’s creative and a tough guy to put away that would give the Irishman some troubles but perhaps not enough to win.
I left Justin Gaethje out of the mix because it appears the other four fighters are hooked up for fights, more or less leaving him on the outside looking in.
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