LAS VEGAS — With only 48 hours to go until UFC 209, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson came face-to-face for the first time during fight week on Thursday after spending the afternoon answering questions from the media.
UFC president Dana White wasn’t wasting any time putting himself between the two lightweight contenders because he knew the staredown was going to get intense quick.
The Thursday face-off was actually the third time Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have come nose-to-nose, but after injuries derailed two previously scheduled bouts they are now finally ready to meet in the Octagon.
Nurmagomedov remembers those first two face-offs with Ferguson, particularly because his opponent was wearing sunglasses — something he clearly doesn’t enjoy.
“First time he come to stare down with sunglasses, like stupid sunglasses,” Nurmagomedov told FOX Sports. “Second time he take off [the sunglasses] and I enjoy both of these. Stare downs for people are very interesting when two tough guys come, you can watch eyes. For me it’s just fun.
“Sometimes I see something. Sometimes I cannot see. We’ll see what happens today.”
It’s clear that Nurmagomedov mentioned the sunglasses again on Thursday during an exchange of words with Ferguson on stage.
As for the No. 2 ranked lightweight contender currently riding a nine-fight win streak into Saturday night, Ferguson definitely takes the stare down with his opponents much more seriously.
Ferguson wasn’t trying to get into Nurmagomedov’s head when looking him in the eye but was sizing up his opponent psychologically instead, to see if there are any weaknesses he can exploit in the fight.
“I know what side he’s going to shoot on. I know he wants to stay on [the left] side. I know exactly where his head’s at. I can tell by his gait. I can read his demeanor,” Ferguson said of the face-off. “I went to school for this stuff, too. I can tell a lot by the way he positions himself. The way he holds his chin high. The way he holds his hands. The way he holds his feet.
“From head to toe, I’m analyzing my opponent. He wants to dog me out, I’m thinking about a whole different thing. I see ‘The Matrix.’ I see numbers and signs going around in the sky and I look right through him. That’s what I pick up.”
It was clearly the most intense staredown from all the fighters who stepped onto the stage on Thursday as Nurmagomedov and Ferguson both look to pick up a huge win at UFC 209 — the victor also walking away with the interim lightweight championship.