‘The Eagle’ seeks his next prey

If you wanted to place a futures bet on a possible UFC lightweight champion, you could do worse than letting your money ride on undefeated Dagestani Khabib Nurmagomedov. The 25-year-old made his biggest step forward at last weekend’s UFC 165, dominating tough veteran Pat Healy en route to a unanimous decision. The victory made him a perfect 21-0 in his young career.

Caught up in the immediate buzz of victory, he said afterward that he wanted a shot at the belt, but with his road to title holder Anthony Pettis blocked by Josh Thomson and No. 1 contender in waiting T.J. Grant, Nurmagomedov has turned his attention elsewhere. Specifically, he’s looking at Grant, the 29-year-old Canadian who is still sidelined while recovering from a June concussion.

On Wednesday’s edition of UFC Tonight, Ariel Helwani reported Nurmagomedov’s preference.

It’s a smart request, given that a win would likely let Nurmagomedov leapfrog the rest of the division and move to the front of the line, but it may not be possible as the UFC can’t set up the matchup until Grant declares himself ready to go, and right now, he doesn’t know when that will be.

Over the weekend, he told FOX Sports that he couldn’t offer a timetable, but gave a ray of hope, saying, “You know what? Honestly, my return is not that far away.”

Nurmagomedov has punched, kicked and slammed his way to five straight victories in the octagon, defeating Healy, Abel Trujillo, Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau and Kamal Shalorus. In his May win over Trujillo, he set a UFC record with 21 takedowns in a single bout.