Seated in the centre of a raised dais at a press conference in Miami, Florida, Khabib Nurmagomedov held court with media members ahead of his Eagle Fighting Championship (Eagle FC) promotion’s highly-anticipated debut in the United States.

According to Nurmagomedov, Eagle FC 44—which took place on Jan. 28, 2022 and featured a heavyweight bout between Russia’s Sergei Kharitonov and kickboxer Tyrone Spong in the main event—marked the organization’s emergence as a threat to leading entities such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

“Big organizations like the UFC, Bellator, they have to be careful with their fighters because Eagle FC is here,” Khabib said at the time. “Of course, we are trying to sign good athletes, great athletes with good names. At the same time, we are also working with the younger generations. We have these two goals.

“I just want to say be careful. If they don’t treat their fighters good, Eagle FC is here.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov followed through at the time by signing former UFC champions Diego Sanchez and Kevin Lee to headline Eagle FC 46 on March 11, 2022. The organization also signed former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos to headline Eagle FC 47.

However, the May 2022 show also marked the organization’s final event in the United States. Eagle FC went on to host four more event, the last of which took place on Dec. 10, 2022. There are currently no plans for anymore events int eh foreseeable future.

How exactly did Khabib Nurmagomedov’s organization with so much promise suffer such a rapid demise?

The first sign of trouble occurred in January 2023, when Nurmagomedov—Eagle FC’s founder and patron—announced plans to distance himself from his commitments within the sports to spend more time with his family.

Nurmagomedov had acquired the Russian promotion formerly known as Gorilla Fighting Championship (GFC) in 2020. By December 2020, Nurmagomedov rechristened GFC as Eagle FC—paying homage to Nurmagomedov’s nickname, ‘The Eagle’—and assumed the role of promoter and financier.

The former UFC lightweight champion also hired his cousin and fellow fighter Shamil Zavurov to serve as the organization’s president. Once Nurmagomedov stepped away from MMA entirely, Zavurov candidly informed the media that if the former champion does not remain invested in Eagle FC, the promotion would “fall apart.”

“Eagle FC depends on Khabib,” Zavurov said in a recent interview with Russian YouTube channel Ushatayka. “So Eagle FC will go on. We will push it forward. We have so many young guys who are competing. So we don’t want to just stop and leave this behind.”

Zavurov’s fears appear to have come true.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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