Khabib Nurmagomedov’ Eagle FC is filled with promise after first US show, but it still has work to do

Khabib Nurmagomedov (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided)
Khabib Nurmagomedov (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided) /

Eagle FC 44 was the start of a new era, a new era with promise.

Eagle FC 44 was the brand’s first show in the United States for the Khabib Nurmagomedov led promotion, and featured, arguably, its’ biggest lineup ever. It was a brand that was reinventing itself and that caused a lot of fans to not really know what to expect heading into the event.

It’s fair to say that Eagle FC 44 delivered in a lot of ways. Firstly, the older stars delivered. There were some lingering questions on if some fighters had anything left in the tank. Rashad Evans unretired and dominated his opponent, Gabriel Checco. The ex-UFC champ won every round in his return. Fellow former UFC star, Ray Borg, had maybe the fight of the night against Cody Gibson, mounting an impressive comeback to get the unanimous decision.

Even the main event surprised many, as Bellator star, Sergei Kharitonov flattened Tyrone Spong in the second round to win by TKO. With the miles on Kharitonov’s body, that wasn’t exactly the outcome many expected.

Another big success for the brand was the overall production of the event. Fans like the ambiance and atmosphere provided by the FLX Arena. It was a small crowd, far more intimate, and that paid off. The show’s broadcast was also well put together. It was paced nicely and had had some good commentary as well. Overall it was a really good outing for the brand as it starts its new chapter. That doesn’t mean it was perfect.

Ways Eagle FC can improve moving forward

With Eagle FC 44 in the books, some fair critiques can be made. Firstly, while the announce team did fine, Henry Cejudo really didn’t mesh well with the others. Chael Sonnen and Cyrus Fees have impeccable chemistry. This isn’t the first time the pair have worked together, as they served as the commentary team for Jeff Jarrett’s ill-fated Global Force Wrestling promotion and they were fantastic together. Cejudo may be better off just doing the post-fight interviews.

If Eagle FC wants to have a three-man both, which isn’t a necessary thing, they would be wise to look at someone else. Someone with a more-well known striking game, to offset the grappling prowess of Sonnen. Maybe go a bit old school and see if Bas Rutten would want to step in?

The other key issue is promotion. On one hand, it was great to see the likes of Borg and Evans, but for more casual fans, it was really just them and Kharitonov to sell the card. It’s not exactly easy to get big-name fighters these days, and you don’t want to go the route of Jake Paul and bring in guys like Derron Williams and Frank Gore to have an MMA bout, but there has to be a middle-ground to attracting guys to the promotion. They’re on the right path, bringing in kickboxer Tyrone Spong and more cross-sport hopping could work. Maybe take a look at other industries when building a card, like pro wrestling? There are a lot of legit guys over there.

Kevin Lee vs. Diego Sanchez will be headlining their next card on March 11 so that’s a step in the right direction as far as star power goes.

The other promoting issue revolves around the younger names that the brand brought in. Most of the fighters who won at Eagle FC 44 were older guys, already into their 30s. The only lesser-known name to win a fight on the card who was 25 or younger was Ramazan Kuramagomedov. If Eagle FC is going to make some noise, it can’t just be on the backs of 30 and 40-year-olds, it has to be with exciting prospects as well. There should be more young talent, and more time advertising them. Strong young talent help establish the identities of the brand they fight for, long after they leave.

Eagle FC needs a whole host of those types of fighters so that their brand can be synonymous with certain fighters, no matter where they’re going.

All in all, the first show was worth the time to watch. No brand is perfect and no show is flawless, yet Eagle FC did a great job with Eagle FC 44 and fans should be keeping an eye on them.

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