Khabib Nurmagomedov cannot be kept from the lightweight belt for much longer. The undefeated contender was used as a negotiation pawn ahead of UFC 205, and ended up on the card’s prelims against Michael Johnson rather than in a title fight with Eddie Alvarez. The frustrated Russian knows that all he can do now is win fights and hope the UFC does what is right.
Speaking during media day prior to UFC 205, Khabib was unsure who would win the title fight between Alvarez and featherweight champ Conor McGregor. Based on the way the event came to be, and McGregor’s power over the UFC in regards to holding up divisions, it isn’t surprising that Nurmagomedov wants Alvarez to keep the belt.
"I hope Alvarez wins, because if I know if McGregor wins, he never take fight with me. Why would he need to take this fight? Because I [would] take him down, smash him, why he need this?"
Nurmagomedov (23-0) has been given many titles, but one of them has long been ‘Conor McGregor’s worst matchup’. The Russian is a smothering and violent wrestler, winning most of his fights in dominant fashion, including a one-sided decision over former champ Rafael Dos Anjos in 2014. The biggest chink in McGregor’s armor has been related to his wrestling defense and ground game.
If McGregor does win and becomes the lightweight champion, Khabib believes the Irishman will see out a less challenging fight rather than take the risk against Nurmagomedov.
"Maybe he take other easy fight like Diaz," Khabib said. "But I hope Eddie Alvarez wins and I win, and Eddie [makes McGregor] go back to featherweight and maybe fight versus Frankie [Edgar]. I fight versus Eddie."
The biggest question mark surrounding UFC 205’s main event is whether or not McGregor will be allowed to keep both the featherweight and lightweight belt if he defeats Alvarez.
Khabib is less concerned with what McGregor will do and more focused on the dangerous task at hand: defeating Michael Johnson. While Nurmagomedov has dominated most of his UFC opponents, Johnson has some of the fastest hands in the division and is a risky fight for any lightweight.
"I don’t think about this," Nurmagomedov said in regards to McGregor. "I focus my life, my opponent, my career. I have to beat Michael Johnson and we’ll see what happens. What the UFC going to do about my 24 [-fight] win streak?"