Lightweight fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov is arguably the most popular UFC fighter in Russia, although the promotion has yet to run an event in the country.
Artem Lobov is another UFC fighter from the region and he says the only reason Nurmagomedov is popular in the country is due to UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor.
“It would be very hard to say who would be the bigger draw in Russia between Khabib and Conor. I honestly feel that Khabib is as big as he is in Russia because of Conor McGregor,” Lobov said to MMA Fighting. “As I said, Conor is the guy who has made MMA a hot topic in Russia. More and more Russians started watching the UFC when Conor came along. The more they watched, the more they understood it. Then, all of a sudden you get this Russian guy coming along and of course the Russian people put their support behind him.”
Nurmagomedov hasn’t competed since UFC 205 and McGregor recently stated that he would love to fight Khabib in Russia.
Lobov also believes that a UFC event is Russia would prove to be a huge success.
“It would be absolutely huge,” Lobov said. “Every time I go to Russia I get the feeling that (MMA) is the biggest sport in the country right now. It’s the coolest sport at the moment. Men and women love it. It’s become mainstream and there are a number of reasons for that.”
The next opponent for McGregor is going to be determined at UFC 216 when Tony Ferguson faces Kevin Lee for the vacant UFC Interim Lightweight Title.