Khabib Nurmagomedov: Rafael dos Anjos has my belt
Prior to UFC 185 this past weekend, there weren’t too many people picking Rafael dos Anjos to beat Anthony Pettis, much less smash him over the course of five rounds, but top-ranked contender Khabib Nurmagomedov saw it coming from a mile away.
The Russian lightweight, who was originally in line to face Pettis if not for an injury that forced him out of action for an extended period, knew that dos Anjos was going to be a bad matchup for the now former champion. It was part of the reason Nurmagomedov wanted to get to Pettis first because he knew exactly how to beat him and dos Anjos executed the game plan to perfection.
"Anthony Pettis doesn’t like when you pressure him," Nurmagomedov told FOX Sports this week. "Give him a hard punch, go and take him down and a lot of people think if I go beat Rafael dos Anjos that dos Anjos is not a good fighter and this is not true. When I fight with this guy, he was very strong, he goes forward, he likes crazy fight and if you punch him in the face it’s no problem.
"If you punch Anthony Pettis in the face, he doesn’t like it. I said before the fight he was going to smash him and dos Anjos against Benson Henderson I said the same thing, too. Everybody saw what happened."
The victory crowned dos Anjos as the new UFC lightweight champion and it puts Nurmagomedov directly in the crosshairs of a title fight if he can get past his next opponent at UFC 187 in May.
I am very focused for my next fight versus ‘Cowboy’ (Cerrone). I will come back strong, beat Cowboy, kick his ass and after that I want my fight against Rafael dos Anjos because he has my belt
— Khabib Nurmagomedov
It’s there he’ll face Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, with the winner moving on to fight for the title later this year. Nurmagomedov has been unrelenting when talking about Cerrone in the lead up to the fight, calling him a drunk and constantly blasting the Colorado native on Twitter whenever he gets the chance.
The chatter has gotten so bad that Cerrone admitted last weekend while doing a Q&A in Dallas that Nurmagomedov’s trash talk has finally gotten to him. While he finds it hilarious that Cerrone is so flustered dealing with his barbs on Twitter, Nurmagomedov wants to make one thing perfectly clear — none of what he’s saying is trash talk.
He just believes the truth hurts and Cerrone is getting a big dose of it right now.
"I like this and if he’s a little bit nervous, this is very good for me. This is not trash talk. I say the truth. He understands. He watches my fights and he understands this guy is on another level. This is not trash talk. I say what I want, I say what I think, I’m a different guy. I’m not like every fighter in the UFC. I’m different," Nurmagomedov said.
"MMA is not only a sport. People watch for other reasons, for drama, and now ‘Cowboy’ is getting into this. I’m going to smash him in the cage. When the cage closes, everybody shuts up and we will go through a crazy fight. I can’t wait."
Nurmagomedov is already sitting as a heavy favorite to beat Cerrone at UFC 187 and he may enjoy the same level of respect going into a bout with the new champion if they do end up fighting later this year.
In the lead up to UFC 185, all the talk about dos Anjos centered around his incredible record in the past few years and going 8-1 in his last nine fights before adding Pettis to his resume. The one loss dos Anjos suffered in his incredible run towards the title came at the hands of Nurmagomedov in early 2014 in a lopsided decision that saw the Russian remain undefeated and move to 22-0 in his career.
As confident as Nurmagomedov is about beating dos Anjos a second time, he knows he has a tougher test in front of him now than if he was going to face Pettis for the belt.
Still, the end result is the same and Nurmagomedov believes he will be the UFC lightweight champion before the year is out.
"I have been injured and now I need to come back strong, but Rafael dos Anjos after my fight, he went on a four-fight win streak and he smashed everybody. He fought me, he smashed four guys after me and this guy’s no joke. This guy is strong. He has very good stand-up and very good jiu-jitsu," Nurmagomedov said.
"But I feel I am the No. 1 lightweight in the world. I am very focused for my next fight versus ‘Cowboy’ (Cerrone). I will come back strong, beat Cowboy, kick his ass and after that I want my fight against Rafael dos Anjos because he has my belt."