Legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko says Russian mixed martial arts will continue to grow long after UFC master Khabib Nurmagomedov resigns – but who will eventually fill the void if Khabib steps down?

Emelianenko remains one of the most influential figures in Russian martial arts, as it ran almost flawlessly in its heyday and established itself as the heavyweight with the highest consensus in the history of the sport.

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‘The Last Emperor’, 44, remains an active fighter and last competed in December where he finished the PRIDE alum Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in the first round. Father Time isn’t waiting for anyone, however, and as he nears his own retirement, Emelianenko has stated that Russian MMA is more than tough enough to survive without him – and even without reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Khabib’s resignation, which he announced with tears in the cage after beating Justin Gaethje last month, was viewed by most as set in stone – with the stoic Russian fighter considering his decision unlikely given the motivation, but with UFC boss Dana White continues to hope Nurmagomedov will return for an unprecedented 30-0 record. Emelianeko says that Russian mixed martial arts will do just fine in due course.

“MMA has already grown in popularity and established itself as a special sport with professional leagues,” Emelianenko told TASS news agency.

“Our [Russian] Boys fight in the top promotional events. I don’t think the sport of MMA is going to lose its popularity [in Russia]. “

Furthermore, it can be argued that there has never been a more fertile time for Russian MMA. In addition to Chabib, another Russian, Petr Yan, also holds UFC gold. In Bellator, Fedor’s own protégé, Vadim Nemkov, holds the light heavyweight title.

But when the day inevitably comes, who exactly will fill the void of Russia’s two most famous fighters? There are several candidates.

Petr Yan

As mentioned above, Yan is one of two Russians currently holding UFC gold. He’s been a revelation since joining the UFC from ACB in 2018 and winning seven times in a row at the Octagon – most recently a TKO from Brazilian legend Jose Aldo in the fifth round, which earned Yan the bantamweight title. He is expected to defend his crown against Aljamain Sterling next month.

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Islam Makhachev

The man who was anointed by Chabib as his own successor. The 19-1 Makhachev had a stop-start UFC career after retiring from the fighting for a variety of reasons, including a staph infection that ousted him from the UFC headliner against Rafael Dos Anjos last weekend. Regardless of his relative inactivity, great things are expected of the 29-year-old as his career evolves.

Vadim Nemkov

Another fighter we mentioned above, Nemkov, turned his world-class Combat Sambo skills into a 12-2 pro record and Bellator gold, which he claimed after knocking out Ryan Bader in August. If he’s developing in the same way as his mentor Emelianenko, Bellator’s light heavyweight division has a problem.

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Zabit Magomedsharipov

Is there a more exciting fighter in all mixed martial arts? The 18-1 featherweight Magomedsharipov has been perfect in the UFC so far, but is currently not active enough to fight for the world title. This is not your own fault, however, as it has repeatedly failed to start a fight with Yair Rodriguez. It is believed that it is only a matter of time before the exciting Dagestani takes on high-stakes battles.

Zubaira Tukhugov

Another Khabib training partner, Tukhugov, gained notoriety (pun intended) when he was among those who stormed the cage after Khabib’s UFC 229 win over Conor McGregor a few years ago, but Tukhugov has a lot more to offer than that tonight recommended his cameo.

Khamzat Chimaev

Chechnya-born Chimaev is perhaps the top-ranked new name on this list after announcing his arrival at the UFC with THREE wins in just 66 days. The always self-confident “Borz” now faces the opportunity to establish himself as a true welterweight candidate: All he has to do is end the eight-fight winning streak of third-placed Leon Edwards.

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Alexander Volkov

Volkov, a contender for the second best Russian heavyweight of all time, looked impressive in his last UFC run and got his hand into contemplation for the title with a clear win over Walt Harris in October.

The various other Nurmagomedovs

The Nurmagomedov clan’s line of battle will not end when Khabib retires from the game and several of his cousins ​​- Usman, Umar and Abubakar – make names for themselves. Incredibly, the four Nurmagomedovs (including Khabib) have a combined career record of 67-3.

And you have a feeling there is much more to come from Russia’s most famous fighting family.

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