Though UFC 209 on Saturday night will feature an interim lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, neither fighter can stop talking about Conor McGregor.
The current lightweight champion will likely square off against whoever wins Saturday’s fight, so both athletes have faced numerous questions about the Irish star.
Nurmagomedov sounded off about McGregor’s lightweight title on Wednesday, calling McGregor’s UFC 205 victory over Eddie Alvarez a “fake fight” and questioning why The Notorious was able to leapfrog Nurmagomedov, who was in line to face Alvarez for the belt.
According to MMAFighting.com, Nurmagomedov said he doesn’t think McGregor earned the right to compete for the lightweight title and that UFC boss Dana White let him skip over several opponents:
“I think this is the real championship fight,” Nurmagomedov said Wednesday at UFC 209’s open workouts. “I don’t care about [Conor McGregor]. You guys know his Uncle Dana give him gift. He jump over all contenders and he fight for the title. I no understand this fight. He catch [Eddie Alvarez] a couple times, he go down, Eddie Alvarez. This fight, for me, is fake fight.
“We have real fight now. This is the people’s main event. This is one of the biggest fights in 2017, of all-time in the UFC, and you guys think I think about other guys? Of course, no. I’m going to make my win streak a 25-win streak, take the belt, become the new UFC lightweight and undisputed, undefeated champion. And afterward, we’ll see what happens.”
If Nurmagomedov does win on Saturday night, he won’t be the undisputed champion. He’d have to fight McGregor for that honor (unless The Notorious vacates the title).
However, should it get to that point, Nurmagomedov isn’t concerned. He said he’s much more worried about his matchup against Tony Ferguson:
“I think he’s much better than Conor,” Nurmagomedov said of Ferguson. “Conor has very good boxing skills, but Tony has elbows, knees, unpredictable. His ground game is good, his conditioning is good. Maybe Tony’s boxing is not good like Conor’s boxing, but MMA fighter, who’s better? I think Tony is better.
“I think this is my toughest match-up, but we’ll see. Nobody knows. Maybe this fight finishes in first round? Nobody knows. I have tough opponents before, like (Rafael) dos Anjos, (Gleison) Tibau, Michael Johnson. These guys are beasts too. But Tony is a little bit different because his style make him different, and he have nine-win streak. We have to respect this.”
Nurmagomedov can downplay McGregor’s skills all he wants, but the fact of the matter is that, if he wins on Saturday, he’ll have to prepare for an opponent who will have plenty of motivation to take him down a peg or two and potentially hand him his first career loss.