Khabib Nurmagomedov thought that he would receive a lightweight title shot at the end of last year, but then entered Conor McGregor. It caused Nurmagomedov — who ended up fighting Michael Johnson at UFC 205 instead — to flip out and threaten to leave the promotion and make it sure it doesn’t hold a card in Russia if not given a title bout.
But despite this, Nurmagomedov understands how the business works. Right now, McGregor is inactive due to the impending birth of his child, so Nurmagomedov is looking for another route to the Irishman. It has been rumored that Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, ranked No. 1 and 2 in the UFC’s lightweight rankings, may meet in an interim championship bout at UFC 209.
Nurmagomedov has confirmed via social media he will be fighting at UFC 209, but did not name an opponent.
"I want to beat Tony Ferguson, take the interim [expletive] belt, and I will fight with Conor for real belt,” Nurmagomedov said earlier this week. "This is what I want to make in 2017.
"If the UFC would ask me about Conor, of course I would take this fight. He has the belt now. I want to take his belt… It’s my belt. Everybody knows I deserve a title shot. But, Tony Ferguson is on nine win streak, he deserves [a chance] too."
The UFC has been looking to hold an event in Russia, and Nurmagomedov feels a soccer stadium in the country could be sold out with a UFC card headlined by those two there. But, at the same time, Nurmagomedov said the fight taking place on a card in Las Vegas or New York could bring the promotion more money.
"I think if I fight with Conor, UFC makes it New York or Vegas — Madison Square Garden or T-Mobile Arena. Because these are two biggest arena for pay-per-view shows,” he said. “Russia, not good for pay-per-view, Ireland, not good for pay-per-view. Here, everybody understands this sport and good fights, but number one, UFC is a business, they’re in business to make money.
"But if you make this fight in Russia, Moscow, Sochi or maybe Dagestan, then maybe 100,000 [fans]. Why not? I fight in Russia, and I have to say, Conor is famous in Russia too. I think 100 percent we would sell all those tickets."
Of course, McGregor could also not defend the title again by going after another division, like welterweight. Nurmagomedov says he wouldn’t be surprised if this happened.
"I think 50/50 [chance on facing McGregor]," he said. "I think maybe he takes the fight at 170, if he loses at 170, he comes back to 155. He does this all the time. He never defends his belt. He never defended his belt in Cage Warriors, he never defends his belt in UFC, he’s all the time playing games because he has good pay-per-view and that’s why he has power in the UFC."