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The UFC has opted not pursue contract renewals with several notable fighters in recent months. One of the more curious cases was Nikita Krylov, who many believed had a bright future in a thin UFC light heavyweight division.

Although Krylov (21-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) is coming off a first-round submission loss to Misha Cirkunov (13-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC) at UFC 206 in December, he had won five consecutive fights prior (all by stoppage) and has shown he can be dangerous for anyone who shares the octagon with him.

Still, Krylov parted ways with the UFC after contractual differences and signed with Fight Nights Global, where he is set to debut on June 2. At just 24, “The Miner” presumably has a lot of fight still ahead of him, which is why Cirkunov, the last person to face him, was so surprised he left the company.

“I’m very surprised they didn’t keep him,” Cirkunov told MMAjunkie. “He’s a very young guy, and he is a supreme athlete. He’s a very, very athletic guy. He’s very light on the feet, very tall, good reach, amazing skillset. I think he definitely adds serious, serious firepower for the weight class. Just because I was able to finish him in the first round doesn’t really mean anything.”

Cirkunov, who meets Volkan Oezdemir in Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 109 co-main event at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, hopes his fight with Krylov, alone, wasn’t an indictment on his career. He believes Krylov is a valuable member of the 205-pound class who was simply beaten by someone who had a better night.

Losses are commonplace in the sport, and Cirkunov said he’s hopeful the one result wasn’t all that spelled the end of Krylov’s UFC tenure. He views Krylov as one of the top fighters in his weight class and said he will continue to follow his career with hopes a UFC return eventually happens.

“Anyone can have a bad day,” Cirkunov said. “I can have a bad day, Conor McGregor had a really bad day (against Nate Diaz). It doesn’t mean anything. Overall, look at his previous fights before he fought me: He was on a five-fight winning streak, all finishes, either with vicious knockouts or submissions.

“I think he’s an elite level fighter. He’s definitely until this day, even though he didn’t fight since our fight, I think that he’s a solid, solid, solid top-10, top-7 kind of fighter. I really believe so. Personally, I can’t wait to see him fight again.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 109, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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