With a win at UFC 205, Khabib Nurmagomedov is ready for his title shot no matter what the UFC rankings might say.
Undefeated in 23 fights, Nurmagomedov probably would have already competed for a championship in the UFC, but injuries sidelined him for a huge part of his career inside the Octagon.
The UFC finally came calling with an offer to fight lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in New York or the upcoming show in Toronto on December 10, but it turns out Nurmagomedov's name was used as a negotiating tactic to ultimately put together the bout with Conor McGregor instead.
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Nurmagomedov was understandably angry when he realized he was a pawn in the game to make the fight between Alvarez and McGregor, but as he approaches his bout with Michael Johnson on Saturday night, he's doing his best to let it all go.
“I don't think about this. I was only upset because they used my name, send me contract, blah, blah, blah, play games but I understand the business,” Nurmagomedov told FOX Sports on Wednesday. “I understand this business.
“Of course the UFC makes Conor (McGregor) vs. (Eddie) Alvarez, because these guys make about this fight a lot of millions. Everybody understands that. I was only upset before when the UFC used my name but I stayed focused. I'm ready. Weigh-in Friday night and I'm ready to go on Saturday.”
Despite missing out on his shot, Nurmagomedov is resigned to getting the next crack at the title with a win over Johnson at UFC 205.
He may not agree with the UFC's position to pass him by in favor of McGregor getting the title shot instead, but Nurmagomedov is determined to earn his opportunity at gold by picking up another dominant win this weekend.
“I think I deserve this. 24 wins. Why not? Why (do) I need other fights? I'm on the top now,” Nurmagomedov said. “Why do I need to take other fights? For what? This is a stupid decision. I have to beat this guy and fight for the title.”
The only other person who might have an argument would be Tony Ferguson, who just recently wrapped up his ninth straight win in a row while picking up a decision victory over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
That victory not only helped maintain Ferguson's win streak, but it also propelled him to the No. 1 spot in the official UFC rankings — one slot ahead of Nurmagomedov.
Of course as much as Ferguson might believe the title shot belongs to him now, Nurmagomedov vehemently disagrees because up until this week, he was ranked at the top of the division and still never received his chance to compete for the championship.
“Rankings are bull (expletive) because I am the No. 1 ranked and the UFC didn't give me a title shot,” Nurmagomedov said.
With a new opponent and a fight card just three days away, Nurmagomedov is done focusing on the title shot that didn't happen as well as the other contenders nipping at his heels in the division.
Nurmagomedov understands that the UFC had a chance to make a huge profit by putting Alvarez into the fight with McGregor, but that doesn’t make the final decision sting any less.
“All the time the UFC makes money decisions. This is no more sport. This is business,” Nurmagomedov explained. “When I come in the UFC, the first time I signed in 2012, this is still a sport.
“I don't think this is a sport no more. This is a business.”