When Khabib Nurmagomedov heard that Tony Ferguson had to pull out of their UFC 223 fight with an injury, the undefeated fighter, like many others, thought that it was an April Fools’ prank. After all, this was the fourth time that Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov had been scheduled and the fourth time it had been canceled due to injury. But once reality set in that the highly anticipated fight was off the table, Nurmagomedov turned his attention to the one and only Conor McGregor.
The thought of facing featherweight champion Max Holloway never crossed his mind, nor did a fight against any other lightweight. What Nurmagomedov wanted was a fight with the biggest name in the UFC. And it didn’t matter if McGregor had been pandering chicken sandwiches for Burger King.
“Where is this Burger King?” Nurmagomedov told The MMA Hour. “Six days to make weight. He can make weight. Bring this guy.”
McGregor is still recognized as the UFC lightweight champion despite having not defended the title since winning it against Eddie Alvarez in 2016. Although he hasn’t competed in the Octagon in nearly two years, McGregor did tease that he would step in to face Frankie Edgar on short notice at UFC 222 when Holloway had to pull out of that fight with an injury. If McGregor was considering fighting then, why wouldn’t he fight now? In Nurmagomedov’s mind, maybe because the fight was a bit too dangerous.
“I think they want him to look nice,” Nurmagomedov said. “He famous. If I change his face … they won’t take somebody who has crazy face.”
Nurmagomedov will now face Holloway on six days notice in the main event of UFC 223 for the lightweight title. Admittedly, Nurmagomedov was surprised that Holloway would accept a fight in a new weight class on less than a week’s notice. But more surprising to Nurmagomedov was the fact that no other lightweights stepped up when the opportunity presented itself to face him.
“I don’t understand,” Nurmagomedov said. “When I am ready, when I am healthy, nobody talk. … Now I’m here. Where are you guys? Only Max Holloway shows up.”
With a victory, “The Eagle” believes that the UFC will attempt to book a fight with him facing McGregor to figure out who the true king of 155 pounds is. But if you ask the Dagestan fighter, he would have already proven who the best in the world is if he wins at UFC 223.
“In jungle, only one king,” Nurmagomedov said. “You cannot be like, this guy king, this guy interim king. It’s all crazy stuff. I’m gonna take the belt, I’m gonna show my numbers. Ten years undisputed and undefeated champion and everything becomes calm, everybody understand.”
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