UFC 209 interim lightweight title challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov has responded to those who have pointed to his striking as a chink in his otherwise bulletproof armour.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has quickly become one of the UFC’s most talked-about stars. As an unbeaten title-challenger, he stands alone in a sport where picking up a loss isn’t considered to be as bad as perhaps it would be in the likes of boxing.
At 24-0, he has faced little-to-no trouble in his professional career but for many, showed brief moments of vulnerability when he faced off against Michael Johnson at UFC 205. The quick-handed Johnson clipped Khabib early in the fight, visibly staggering him, but was unable to inflict any more damage for the duration of the scheduled three rounds.
Of course, Nurmagomedov was able to rally and put on one of the most dominant and devastating performances of his career, battering the helpless Johnson on the ground until he caught a stray arm in a beautiful kimura, winning him the fight, and placing him pole position for a shot at UFC gold.
Now, with the very dangerous Tony Ferguson the next in line, Khabib spoke to FOX Sports in response to those who felt that the American Johnson was able to uncover a chink in his armour, assuring each and every one of them that his experience in both the sport of MMA and combat sambo proved that his so-called inadequacies on the feet were nothing but speculation.
“What’s interesting, all my amateur and my professional 24 fights, maybe three or four times guys catch me in the last 12 or 13 years. I have many fights and people still talk about my striking game but I don’t know why. Only Michael Johnson one time catch me but I fight with Rafael dos Anjos and other top guys like [Abel] Trujillo, [Gleison] Tibau, Pat Healy, a lot of top guys in the UFC. Outside of the UFC, I fight with a lot of high level striking guys and nobody catches me.”
“I can stand up with him. I can fight with him. I can wrestle with him. This is MMA. This is not just one sport like boxing or something. I think he’s unpredictable and he’s very dangerous, elbows, knees, push kicks, everything but when you have a MMA fight it’s going to be different. When you have takedowns, slams, submissions, striking, everything, this is my game.”
Tony Ferguson, on the back of his impressive win over the former champ Rafael dos Anjos, most definitely represents the greatest test of Khabib’s career to this point, but of course the Eagle, being the man that he is, remained unwavering in his belief that he will be the one with his hand raised when he steps into the octagon for what will be his 25th professional bout.
As for his actual prediction for this weekend’s eagerly anticipated matchup, Khabib showed the same cold, unapologetic confidence that we’ve now come to expect from him since he gradually crept his way into the MMA mainstream.
“My plan is make him tired, little bit talk with him and he understands who is who and after, I finish him.”
Khabib has this very frightening certainty in his voice when he talks about his destiny and with skills like his, can you really blame him for believing he’s the best? If he does, in fact, defeat Ferguson this weekend, will there be any more doubt in the minds of the MMA community that he is truly the greatest and most dominant grappler in the game today?
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena