Khabib Nurmagomedov is just one week away from making his return to the Octagon against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
The undefeated UFC lightweight champion hasn’t competed since taking out Conor McGregor back at UFC 229 last year and then satisfying a lengthy suspension for his post-fight actions, but fight fans would be misguided if they believe the Russian sensation will be missing a step next weekend against “Diamond.”
While Poirier has been on an incredible streak of late, including a 5-0-1 record since the start of 2017 with victories over three current or former UFC champions, Khabib is still the heavy favorite to come out on top and defend his 155-pound crown.
Should Khabib live up to his billing in home territory and end Poirier’s impressive streak at lightweight, there’s really only one guy left for “Eagle” to take out.
“There’s only Tony Ferguson,” Nurmagomedov told reporters earlier today during a UFC 242 media conference call (transcribed by MMA Fighting). “Of course, I think he deserves. Who else? Nobody. Only Tony Ferguson I think.”
Remember, Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson has been booked four times in the past, yet each and every time the fight somehow falls through, whether due to freak injuries or botched weight cuts. Still, Ferguson remains the most likely candidate to get a shot at Khabib next given his 12-fight streak in the hardest division in the sport.
That said, Ferguson could very easily get passed over by McGregor if the Irishman is ready to step out of the shadows and convince UFC to grant him a rematch against Khabib. The lightweight rankings certainly don’t support that idea, but “Notorious” is a man who gets what he wants and a fighter who provides the promotion with their biggest show.
Nurmagomedov, who recently stated that his rivalry with McGregor won’t be finished until somehow goes to jail is not entertaining any notion of a rematch, especially with UFC 242 just one week away.
“Honestly I don’t understand what you ask about. This guy, when did he win the last time?” Nurmagomedov said about McGregor. “Why do we keep talking about this guy? This guy don’t train more than three years. We keep talking about this guy.
“I don’t want to talk about him. We have Dustin Poirier, we have a lot of stuff, please let’s talk about real stuff.”
Khabib, who has never really respected the fighting skills of McGregor, believes “Diamond” is actually a tougher opponent than the Irishman. McGregor does hold a knockout win over Poirier during their days at featherweight, bu Conor hasn’t done enough at 155 pounds over the past few years to really impress the champion.
“I think maybe right now Dustin is a more complete MMA fighter than him,” Nurmagomedov stated. “Because he beat a lot of good guys in the lightweight division and I don’t remember when Conor win in the lightweight division. I think he only beat [Eddie] Alvarez and he have only one win in the lightweight division in a long, long time.
While there may not be as much hype behind UFC 242 than some would think, there’s never been a more exciting time for the UFC’s jam-packed lightweight division. There’s simply so many guys clawing for the chance to hand Khabib his first professional loss. Only time will tell if that happens inside of the Octagon but it all starts with Poirier next weekend in Abu Dhabi.
For complete UFC 242 fight card news click here.