Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi this weekend. The Dagestan fighter believes he is ‘a much better fighter’ now than he was against Conor McGregor in October last year.
The last time we saw Nurmagomedov, he was flying over the cage in Las Vegas, running and jumping into the crowd after choking-out McGregor in the fourth round only for a mass brawl to erupt. He subsequently served a nine-month ban and was fined $500,000 by the UFC.
A memorable night for many reasons, Nurmagomedov now has to defend his title. Interim lightweight champion Poirier will step into the cage with the Dagestani at UFC 242, having beaten Max Holloway in April for the interim strap.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is at his best
Both fighters are in the forms of their lives, but after confidently putting McGregor away last year, “The Eagle” feels that he has improved his game since.
“I’m a much better fighter than when I fight with McGregor because I won this fight, and with winning comes experience and with winning comes everything that I have right now,” Khabib told The National.
“Before the McGregor fight, people talked about striker versus wrestler. But after a fight, a lot of people changed their mind because in the stand-up he can’t do anything with me – nothing. I gave him a hard punch, and he went down.
“But right now no one talks about this because they understand I can stand with anybody in this division. I feel great with my stand-up, I feel great with my grappling, my wrestling, with my pressure, experience. Everything comes together. Right now I feel I’m a much better fighter than before.”
There’s no doubt that Poirier has earned his shot at the title. The 30-year-old is on a four-fight winning streak in the UFC having beaten Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez by TKO, and Holloway by unanimous decision this year, establishing himself as one of the hardest hitters in the division.
“I think maybe right now Dustin is a more complete MMA fighter than him because he beat a lot of good guys in the lightweight division and I don’t remember when Conor won in the lightweight division.”
U.S. fight fans can watch UFC 242 from 7 am on ESPN+ this Saturday, and UK viewers can catch all the action on BT Sport from 3 pm.