Khabib Nurmagomedov says he is ready for war when he meets Dustin Poirier to unify the UFC lightweight division at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi tonight.
Undefeated Khabib will put his title on the line against interim champion Poirier at The Arena on Yas Island as he returns to the Octagon for the first time in almost a year.
Poirier is getting a lot of backing to upset the 27-0 Dagestan native, especially from the Amercian media, particularly after what looked to be a tough weight cut for Khabib – something he denied at yesterday’s weigh ins suggesting it had been the best of his life.
Poirier (25-5-1NC) comes into the fight in the form of his life, riding a six fight undefeated streak, a standout win over Max Holloway to take the interim crown, and what his camp is describing as ‘some of the best conditioning they have ever seen’ – from any fighter.
Khabib has been full of respect for The Diamond in the build up, and is fully prepared to go deep when the opening bell comes.
“I am focused on five rounds, I cannot think about second round or third round I am going to finish him, I am focused on a five round war,” he said following the ceremonial weigh ins.
Much has been made of Khabib fighting in Abu Dhabi – a location that allows many more family, friends, and fans to attend from Russia and the Middle East compared to what he used to fighting on American soil.
He admits it does bring extra pressure, but in the confines of the Octagon, that all disappears.
“You are always going to feel pressure,” he said. “He has pressure, I have pressure – it doesn’t matter. When the cage closes I am going to fight – this is the easiest part in this sport, this is what I do all my life.
“What is different between champions and normal fighters is that you can control the pressure. I can control this and have shown it many, many times. I feel pressure, but it doesn’t matter. When the cage closes the pressure is finished and I am going to just fight.”
Poirier has two losses on his record inflicted by Khabib victims Conor McGregor and, more recently Michael Johnson. It is widely recogised how much Poirier has evolved since these blotches – something Khabib echoes, but also points to his own growth ahead of their showdown.
“Right now is a different time and a different Dustin from before, I am different too and you are going to see that.”
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