Undefeated Dagestani phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov finally fulfilled the massive potential that had been heaped upon him since he joined the UFC by defeating Al Iaquinta (watch highlights here) for the lightweight title in the main event of last night’s (Sat., April 7, 2018) UFC 223 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
But it obviously wasn’t without the most chaotic build-up to a UFC title fight ever, beginning when his oft-scheduled original opponent was forced out with a knee injury, continuing when former UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor threw a metal handcart through the window of a bus he was riding, injuring at least two people and striking three fights off UFC 223, and finally ending with a dominant performance over Iaquinta, his fifth prospective opponent after Ferguson’s original replacement Max Holloway was deemed unfit to compete.
Yes, it was that kind of week, and yet Khabib still persevered to win the lightweight title even though some, including a noxious, overblown version of octagon commentator Joe Rogan, felt his striking was absolutely abhorrent as he peppered Iaquinta – a fighter known for his boxing skills – with nonstop jabs to the point that ‘Ragin’ Al’s’ face was bloodied badly. True, he has some striking deficiencies to shore up after a lifetime of perfecting his dominant grappling skills, but at the end of the day, there’s little doubt that ‘The Eagle’ is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA.
That has the mixed martial arts world awaiting his potential match-up with McGregor, and even though Khabib called out the legendary Georges St-Pierre in two post-fight interviews – a bout GSP quickly rebuffed – he’ll have the specter of the infamous Irishman hanging over his head until they meet. Case in point, Khabib was obviously asked about his mega-famous foil at the post-fight presser, the surging future star said he has to settle his rivalry with ‘The Notorious’ at some point:
“We have to finish this beef, chicken or something like this. He have to stop eating Burger Kings. You want to fight? Come. I told you guys, I’m going to make him humble. I’m going to change his game.
“Now only one champion.
“No more fake champions, no more champion who never defend his title or something like this. Now UFC has champion, and this champion wants to defend his title. You want to fight? Come here. Inside the cage? Come. Outside the cage? Come. Let me know without camera, without like all this media.”
Apparently, McGregor’s made it personal with his all-out assault that left him incarcerated in handcuffs and facing serious charges because he’s willing to settle the long-standing rivalry inside of the cage or outside of it.
But he knows that a legitimate main event versus the Irishman would be huge for all parties, especially with the necessary time to promote it sufficiently, so he’s also aiming for a World Tour the likes of which McGregor went on with Jose Aldo in 2015.
However, he’s now the champ, and he turned the tables on McGregor by saying it was “The Notorious” who now had to beg him to get a title shot :
“I hope he’s going to fight – we have to fight. Like make World Tour. Everywhere, like Tokyo, Moscow, Dublin, Los Angeles, Rio. Big world tour, promote this fight and fight end of year, biggest arena in the world. Madison Square Garden. … I’m here. He want to become lightweight champion? He have to fight with me. No more all these fake champions.
“You guys remember when he put tweet, ‘Beg me.’ Please beg me.”