Although Albuquerque is home to one of the most prestigious and successful Mixed Martial Arts camp in the country, in Jackson's MMA, the UFC has never held an event there. New Mexico has been a hotbed for talent in the Mixed Martial Arts world, with fighters like Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Jon Jones, Travis Browne, Andrei Arlovski, Jon Dodson, Cub Swanson, Clay Guida and many more spending time there to train, it's a wonder the UFC has waited this long to make a move out there.
The wait is officially over for New Mexico as the UFC has announced a lightweight headliner to take place June 7th in Tingley Coliseum. Former Lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson has been matched against surging contender Rustam Khabilov. The fight will be the main event of a UFC Fight Night, the rest of the card has yet to fill out, but you can bet there will be some local fighters taking up those slots.
Coming off a very close split decision win over Josh Thomson, Henderson was initially in consideration for a title rematch with Anthony Pettis, though a Pettis injury and a Gilbert Melendez win saw the UFC give the shot to Melendez. The fight against Khabilov had many scrathing their heads, however, as Khabilov has only recently broken into the top 15 of the lightweight division while Benson Henderson sits comfortable at the top of the rankings. Why would the #2 ranked lightweight accept a fight against a #15 ranked fighter? It seems this is a lose-lose fight for Henderson, as he can only fall in the rankings.
The story of how this fight came to fruition is a bit odd as it seems to stem from a call out on Twitter. Khabilov, looking for an opponent, tweeted at Henderson asking him if he is up for the challenge. Henderson, never one to turn down a fight, accepted. It was later revealed by Henderson himself that he had mistaken Khabilov for another fighter; #7 ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov. Despite the mix up, Henderson still accepted the fight, confident in his abilities.
This fight is a huge step up in competition for Khabilov and seems to be a tune up fight for Henderson, but, despite the seemingly large mismatch, both of these fighters are supremely talented and will put on a show for the already-dedicated New Mexico crowd.
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