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.”
UFC 242’s main event is official after Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier made weight.
Both fighters we right on the 155lbs mark when they took to the scales in Abu Dhabi this morning.
The two men will unify the UFC’s lightweight division, with champion Nurmagomedov facing interim champ Poirier at The Arena on Saturday night.
In the co-main event, Paul Felder (155lbs) and Edson Barboza (155.5lbs) also made the lightweight mark.
The remaining fights on the main card will also all go ahead as planned with Islam Makhachev (155lbs) and Davi Ramos (156), Shamil Abdurakhimov (257lbs) and Curtis Blaydes (251lbs), and Diego Ferreira (156lbs) and Mairbek Taisumov (156lbs) all making their respective limits.
History will also be made in Abu Dhabi with the first women’s UFC fights to take place in Abu Dhabi. Joanne Calderwood and Andrea Lee both weight in at 126lbs for their flyweight clash. However, Canada’s Sarah Moras weighed in three pounds over the 135lbs bantamweight limit and will be fined 20% of her purse, but here fight with Liana Jojua (134.5lbs) will still go ahead.
Dustin Poirier has the skills,and conditioning to shake off the underdog tag and dethrone UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, says his coach Mike Brown.
The pair headline UFC 242 at The Arena in Abu Dhabi this weekend and Brown says he is comfortable with Khabib being a strong favourite for the fight and having the added pressure of rampant local support on his shoulders.
“I like the position of an underdog, and Dustin has been there before and pulled it out many times over. He is confident in his abilities and he is going to be ready on Saturday night.”
Poirier (25-5-1NC) has said he will shock the world, and despite not losing in his last six UFC contests, the undefeated Khabib will offer a challenge the like of which he has not seen before.
With his smothering style, top-class wrestling and ever-improving striking game, Khabib has mauled much of the lightweight division. 27 have tried, and failed to get the better of the Dagestan native, but Brown thinks The Diamond has the attributes to be the man to end the streak – even if the fights goes into Khabib’s domain on the mat.
“He will be very comfortable and confident in his abilities in looking for a submission or getting back to his feet – both are fine,” said Brown, a veteran of 36 professional fights himself and a spearhead of Poirier’s American Top Team. “Khabib also has skills on his feet, so both are well rounded mixed martial arts fighters and I think we will see a lot of everything in this fight.”
While Poirier may be versed on the floor, it is the striking department in which he looks to have a distinct advantage. The same could have been said of Conor McGregor, Khabib’s last victim, who found success on the feet when they met in October 2018, but was ultimately overrun, and submitted.
That success for McGregor came primarily in the third round of the bout, utilising his left hand and finding a home for it from range – something Poirier has excelled in previously – especially his last win over Max Holloway for the interim crown. Brown says it will be Poirier’s superior conditioning that will allow him to exploit these situations further than McGregor come Saturday night.
“I think the biggest difference is Dustin’s conditioning is some of the best I’ve seen and he is going to be dangerous from round one to round five. From minute one to minute 25 he is going to be powerful and he has the ability to knock you out at any time.”