Khabib Nurmagomedov is edging closer to the return to the UFC octagon in September, with a matchup in Abu Dhabi at UFC 242 seemingly on the cards.
While nothing has been yet made official, everything from The Eagle’s current timeline to the UFC’s decision to host a PPV event in Abu Dhabi on September 7 seems to indicate that Dana and co. are looking to send one of their biggest names to the U.A.E capital for what should be a massive moment for the sport.
It makes sense.
Khabib is an unquestionably massive star on that side of the globe, as evidenced by the huge turnouts and reception he received during his recent tour of the world.
With 14.4 million followers on Instagram – a number ten million stronger than Jon Jones and two million more than Ronda Rousey, Nurmagomedov’s global pull cannot be understated and after his dominant UFC 229 victory over the sport’s biggest star and the subsequent mess that followed in the post-fight, it will be very interesting to see how he does in his next outing.
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.”
Dustin Poirier is, of course, the obvious pick for his next opponent.
The Diamond managed to beat down the UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway in a performance that displayed him at his very best to date.
Poirier made the difference in physical strength evident from the get-go and while he will no doubt open as a big underdog to the dominant force in possession of the belt – that performance was one that filled his supporters with the hope that his ever-improving physical attributes for 155lbs will allow him to spring the upset.
And while there have been some whispers of an instant rematch between Khabib and his great rival Conor McGregor, if the UFC are looking to build an authentic second helping – both men should be forced to fight at least once again to allow a genuine narrative to form.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena