There may be an ‘interim’ tag attached to the championship co-main event at UFC 209 but that’s definitely not the way Khabib Nurmagomedov is looking at it.
The undefeated lightweight contender pulled no punches on Wednesday when asked about his fight with Tony Ferguson to crown a champion while current lightweight king Conor McGregor is out of action.
Nurmagomedov not only took a jab at McGregor receiving a title shot with zero bouts at lightweight in the UFC, but he also intimated that there was something fishy happening with his second-round knockout over Eddie Alvarez this past November in New York.
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“100-percent, I think this is the real championship fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t care about [Conor]. You guys know his Uncle Dana [White] give him gift, [Conor McGregor] jumped over all the contenders and he fight for the title. I don’t understand this fight. He catch [Eddie Alvarez] a couple of times and he go down. This fight for me, this is fake fight. I don’t think about him. We have real fight now.
“This is one of the biggest fight in 2017, of all time in the UFC. You guys think I think about other guys? Of course not. I’m going to make my win streak 25 [fight] win streak, take belt, become the new UFC lightweight undisputed and undefeated champion and after we will see what will happen.”
When asked to clarify his comment that the bout between McGregor and Alvarez was “fake,” he doubled down his curiosity about the way the fight played out that saw the Irishman win a lopsided bout to take the title from the champion that night.
“I don’t understand this fight. UFC give him fight like seven, six weeks before fight. He catch him a couple of times, he goes down. I don’t understand,” Nurmagomedov said. “A lot of people have questions about this fight.”
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
While McGregor may be touting himself as the lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov says that everybody will know who is the true king of the 155-pound division after Saturday night.
“Uncle Dana give him a gift. He jumped over all contenders,” Nurmagomedov said about McGregor. “They make this fight, I understand but people know who is real fighter, who is high-level fighter in the lightweight division.”
Nurmagomedov will never claim to be Ferguson’s biggest fan, but he absolutely believes the No. 2 ranked lightweight contender is a much tougher matchup for him than McGregor would be.
“I think he is much better than Conor,” Nurmagomedov said about Ferguson. “Conor have very good skill, boxing skill but Tony has elbows, knees, [he’s] unpredictable, his ground game is good, his conditioning is good. Maybe Tony’s boxing not good like Conor’s boxing but MMA fighter who is better, I think Tony’s better.”
Given the attention that Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have received leading up to this highly anticipated matchup, some believe that this fight should have main event status rather than co-main event.
For his part, Nurmagomedov doesn’t want to disrespect welterweight champion Tyron Woodley or Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson by claiming he deserves the top spot on the marquee but he knows without a doubt which fight people are more interested in watching.
“I want to give respect for Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, I love this fight, I want to watch this fight. It’s like two high-level welterweights but you can watch numbers,” Nurmagomedov explained. “You can watch ‘Embedded,’ you can watch ‘Countdown,’ me versus Tony.