Retired UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle Fighting Championship promotion is making a major push into the United States with several big announcements made on Wednesday.
The legendary Russian appeared at a press conference in Miami to not only discuss the upcoming debut card scheduled for Jan. 28, but plans for further expansion as the promotion seeks to become a global force in combat sports.
“Right now, we’re just beginning,” Nurmagomedov said. “Next year we’re going to have a very big show in this arena at the end of January and I’m very excited. One year ago I just became owner of Eagle FC. I buy this promotion exactly one year ago December 2020. Right now after one year, we make 43 shows around the world. No. 44 is going to be end of January next year.
“I just want to change a couple of things. One of the main things, I want Eagle FC to become a global promotion. That’s why we opened here in Miami. This promotion not only from Russia, we’re going to make events, we’re still going to make events around the world but the main home is going to be here in Miami.”
The card on Jan. 28 will feature Tyrone Spong in his return to mixed martial arts as he takes on PRIDE and Bellator veteran Sergei Kharitonov in the main event. The event will also feature the return of former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans as he comes out of retirement to fight again for the first time since 2018.
In addition to the debut card, Nurmagomedov and his partners at Eagle FC made several other announcements. Here’s what we learned about the promotion at the press conference on Wednesday.
New Weight Classes Are Coming
As part of Eagle FC’s move into the United States, the promotion will be launching new weight classes that should appease fighters who have been calling for changes for several years.
The most notable changes will be a new 165-pound division as well as a 175-pound division in Eagle FC.
According to Nurmagomedov, the promotion will set up weight classes every 10 pounds as opposed to the current system employed by promotions such as the UFC and Bellator.
At launch in the U.S., Eagle FC will feature a total of eight weight classes including: 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 205 and heavyweight.
It turns out being able to compete at 165 pounds was a huge part of the motivation former UFC fighter Kevin Lee had when signing a new deal to join the roster at Eagle FC.
“That was a big part of this decision. I’m really grateful that Eagle FC is willing to do a 165-pound division. I think it’s going to benefit a lot of guys and I’m the best one in the world at that weight. I’ve said that for a long time and it’s a big part of the reason why I’m coming over.
“I’ll be the first 165-pound world champion. There’s been world champions at [155 pounds] and there’s been world champions at 170. I’ll be the first one and it feels nice to make a little piece of history for mixed martial arts.”
As far as adding a flyweight division, Nurmagomedov said that the promotion may explore that option at some point down the road if enough talent becomes available but there will not be a 125-pound weight class when Eagle FC debuts in the U.S. in 2022.
When Eagle FC arrives in the U.S. in January, the promotion will not feature any women’s fights but that could potentially change in the future.
According to Nurmagomedov, the addition of women to the Eagle FC roster will depend on one thing just like every other division they are promoting — talent.
“We’ll see if we have good fighters,” Nurmagomedov said about adding women’s fighters to Eagle FC. “You can get with our matchmakers. We’re going to think about this.
“Cause right now female fighters, it’s like even we can watch UFC call Amanda Nunes the greatest of all time, we can watch what Julianna Pena did with Amanda. But Julianna Pena is not the greatest or something like this. She just beat Amanda Nunes and we can watch not many good [women’s] fighters around the world. Just like five or six. We’ll see.”
As previously confirmed, former UFC interim title challenger Kevin Lee has inked a contract to join Eagle FC as his new fighting home with his debut set for March 11 in Miami.
At this time there’s no word on Lee’s opponent but he said plans are in motion for him to relocate to Miami full time for his training camp as he prepares to make his debut with the promotion.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos was also sitting front row at the press conference and while no deal is done yet, Nurmagomedov confirmed the promotion was pursuing him for a deal.
“We invited him and we’ll work on this,” Nurmagomedov said when addressing dos Santos. “We want to sign him. He’s one of the greatest strikers in UFC history. Former UFC heavyweight champion.”
With the first event headlined by heavyweights like Spong and Kharitonov, adding a veteran free agent like dos Santos would certainly bolster the roster.
With Eagle FC streaming live through the FLX App from Miami, the broadcast team for the debut card was also confirmed on Wednesday.
Play-by-play duties will fall to Cyrus Fees, who has previously served as a ring announcer for Dana White’s Contender Series, while also calling fights for promotions such as UAE Warriors, Fight Nights Global and Xtreme Fighting Championships.
Fees will be joined on color commentary by former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo as well as recently retired UFC veteran Felicia Spencer.
As previously announced, Eagle FC is targeting as many as 10 shows in the U.S. in 2022 with the first taking place on Jan. 28 and now the second show confirmed for March 11. All cards will take place at the new FLX Arena, which was constructed specifically for Eagle FC in Miami.