Khabib Nurmagomedov gave his thoughts on his division’s top contender, Dustin Poirier, a man who won his interim-title in highly impressive fashion last weekend.
Khabib was in attendance at UFC St Petersburg in support of his friend and teammate Islam Mackhachev – who came out on top in a thrilling showdown against promotional debutant Arman Tsarukyan in the night’s co-main event.
As his first appearance at a UFC show since UFC 229, questions about Nurmagomedov’s own future were, of course, going to be front-and-center, with September looking to be the date the champ has in mind.
Dustin Poirier made his argument as the next-in-line for Khabib crystal clear with his UFC 236 headlining victory over the champion of the featherweight division, Max Holloway.
The fight itself was an exhilarating affair from start to finish, but overall, it was the size, power, and conditioning of Poirier that allowed him to hang in there with the famously-abrasive Holloway.
Speaking to Megan Olivi of ESPN, Khabib admitted that he was impressed by the championship pedigree of The Diamond but made it clear that he believes himself to be the better fighter.
“I think it was a very good performance from Dustin Poirier. Honestly, before the fight, I though Holloway was going to beat him. This was my prediction when I talked with friends, with my father, with my team. But he impressed me. Dustin impressed me.
“I think he has very good boxing, much better than before. In every fight, he became stronger, better in boxing, on his feet, and I think he deserves a title shot.
“He’s the interim UFC lightweight champion, I’m the real lightweight champion, we have to fight. Now we’re working on this.
“I think I have to maul him, like I do with everybody. This is what I have to do. I respect him as a fighter, as a human, but when we go to the cage, I have to maul this guy. This is what I want.
“Right now I’m focusing on September, five months before the fight, and I think it’s going to be a very good fight with him.”
After several years where the lightweight division was plunged into something of a log-jam due to the adventurous nature of its former champion Conor McGregor, it does appear as though normality is on its way towards being restored.
In Poirier, there’s no doubt that Khabib will have a very legitimate threat to his unbeaten record but in a division as stacked as 155lbs, the champ will know that there will be an abundance of worthy contenders waiting in line for a crack at his title.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena