When Khabib Nurmagomedov brings his Eagle FC promotion to the U.S. in a few weeks, it will be a litmus test of the former lightweight champion’s promotional power.
Eagle FC 44 is taking place in Miami, Florida, and the card is going to look way different than most of the promotion’s first 43 events in Russia.
In the U.S., you have to reckon with the giant that is the UFC, the ‘next best thing’, which is Bellator; and then you have other, smaller promotions that stockpile young, talented prospects to later feed to the bigger promotions like the LFA, CFFC, Fury and CES.
Below that, you have regional promotions that will occasionally have a nice prospect, but are mostly for entertainment and developmental purposes. These promotions mainly reside in the Midwest.
Eagle FC, prior to the U.S. venture, is probably in that second tier. Since purchasing the entity and rebranding it, Nurmagomedov draws a lot of big names on the Russian scene and had a lot of talented fighters on his cards.
The U.S. version of Eagle FC, however, is nowhere near that style of composition: it’s reliant on names. Names that MMA fans already know and love that are mostly past their prime and had their clocks expire on the so-called big show.
Tyrone Spong. Sergei Kharitonov. Ray Borg. Renan Barao. John Howard. Rashad Evans — everyone that watches MMA knows who those fighters are. They’ve watched them reach the highest peaks and they’ve watched them fizzle out.
These aren’t the unknown Russian killers that have commonly been associated with ‘cousin’ Khabib or the former Gorilla Fighting Championship.
Guys like Islam Makhachev (21-1), Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1), Usman Nurmagomedov (14-0) and company have made themselves household names thanks to Khabib’s tutelage.
What Khabib and Eagle FC are doing is taking a risk and completely changing their identity by putting on this show in Miami, especially if their U.S. endeavors move to the forefront of the promotion’s priorities.
I’m wondering: what will be considered a success for Eagle FC here?
Do they just want to line up a lot of big names that MMA fans here know to generate hype among the Western hemisphere, or do they want to break into the U.S. as a household promotion and continue to do shows?
We’ll begin to find out on January 28.