The UFC lightweight title picture is finally gaining some clarity. Much of that is due to the fact that it’s apparently time Khabib reveals his plans for his Octagon return.
The undisputed champ is still serving the remainder of his suspension for inciting the infamous post-fight brawl with Conor McGregor’s camp at last October’s UFC 229. A rematch with McGregor, whom he submitted in the fourth round of their awaited grudge match, has been teased repeatedly.
But when Dustin Poirier won the interim lightweight title with a hard-fought, five-round decision win over Max Holloway at last weekend’s UFC 236, things got more complicated. UFC President Dana White said ‘The Diamond’ was next for Khabib.
And Khabib is on board. Speaking at the ESPN+-aired post-fight show (via MMA Fighting) while in attendance for today’s UFC St. Petersburg, Khabib said Poirier both impressed and surprised him. Because of that, he knows he is his next opponent.
‘The Eagle’ also said they are working on the fight:
“I think it was a very good performance from Dustin Poirier. Honestly, before the fight, I thought Holloway was going to beat him. This is my prediction when we talk with fans, with father, with team. But he impress me. Dustin impressed me.
“I think he has very good boxing, much better than before. Every fight, he becomes stronger and better in boxing, on his feet. And I think he deserves [the] title show. I think because he’s already interim UFC lightweight champion, I am real lightweight champion, we have to fight. And now we’re working on this.”
Those words are sure to please the hardcore fans who want nothing more than a stricter adherence to the rankings. The fight is certainly an elite match-up. Yet most are still picking Khabib to dominate ‘The Diamond’ like he has everyone else in his 27-0 mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Khabib not surprisingly agrees with them. He offered his respect for Poirier’s skills before noting that he would have to maul him like all his rivals:
“Long time, I follow him. He have very good background,” Nurmagomedov said of Poirier. “He have good ground game, not bad, he have good striking game. I follow him a long time.
“And, versus me? I think I have to maul him, like I do with everybody. This is what I have to do. I respect him like fighter, like human, but when we go to the cage, I have to maul this guy. This is what I want. And right now I’m focused on September, five months before fight, and I think it’s going to be very good fight with him.”