Khabib’s UFC 242 victory viewed 26 million times in Russia as homeland stardom hits new heights — RT Sport News
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fame has hit even more stratospheric heights in his Russian homeland following his victory over Dustin Poirier in their lightweight title unification bout at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
Nurmagomedov submitted interim champion Poirier in the third round to become the undisputed ruler at 155lbs, also extending his unbeaten record to a remarkable 28-0.
And while the Dagestani fighter was already a bona fide star after his victory over Conor McGregor in Las Vegas last October, his latest bout has sent his popularity skyrocketing even higher.
Nurmagomedov’s Abu Dhabi showdown with Poirier was broadcast free-to-view on Russia’s Channel 1 (Perviy Canal), and according to stats compiled by Mediascope and TV Index – and reported in the national press – it has already racked up 26 million views online across the channel’s various platforms.
The bout in the UAE also drew a TV audience of around 24 percent among adult viewers across Russia on Saturday night, according to the data.
A pre-recorded chat show interview with the 30-year-old fighter, ‘Our Khabib’, was broadcast on Channel 1 before the fight itself to drum up interest, and the viewing figures for the bout are testament to the Dagestani brawler’s blockbuster appeal.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Khabib’s popularity is concentrated most intensely in his Dagestani homeland, where fans packed cinema halls to watch the fight and flooded out onto the streets in celebration afterwards.
On the social media scene, the victory has seen Nurmagomedov crowned Russia’s undisputed Instagram number 1, as he overtook TV personality-turned-pop princess Olga Buzova as his country’s bigger personality on the platform, with a staggering 16.4 million followers.
Earlier this year, Nurmagomedov topped the Forbes Russia list of the nation’s ‘most successful’ personalities from the world of sport and showbuisness.
While McGregor is angling for a re-run of their October 2018 fight – tweeting “Book my rematch in Moscow” after Khabib’s latest win – the match-up most MMA fans crave is with America’s Tony Ferguson.
The pair have been slated to fight on no fewer than four previous occasions, with injury or illness scuppering the bout each time.
‘El Cucuy’ is on a 12-fight win streak dating back to 2013, and is the number two-ranked fighter in the division.
UFC chief Dana White confirmed that Ferguson was “next in line” for Khabib – but added that if that didn’t materialize then a McGregor rematch would “make a lot of sense.”
Whoever he steps in the octagon with next, there will undoubtedly be massive interest and support in Nurmagomedov’s Russian homeland and far beyond.