While Conor McGregor and Dana White seem adamant that McGregor has returned to the realm of contenders after the Irishman defeated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in his return to the Octagon, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would beg to differ.
Nurmagomedov has taken down a murderers’ row of opponents en route to next fight. He’ll be putting his belt on the line opposite top contender Tony Ferguson in the UFC 249 main event on April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y. “The Eagle” considers Ferguson his toughest test yet.
“Last couple of years, I compete with guys like (Edson) Barboza, (Rafael) dos Anjos, Conor (McGregor), (Dustin) Poirier, (Al) Iaquinta; all of these guys not tough like Tony Ferguson, and that’s why I feel like now I have real motivation,” Nurmagomedov recently told TMZ Sports.
“Because before, when I watch all these opponents I think, ‘Okay, I can beat these guys.’ Of course I work hard, but right now, it’s like very, very tough opponent. That’s why, and we focus like always, but right now we have more focus, more hard work. Tony is not like these guys, he’s a little bit more tough than all of them.”
White seems to feel like McGregor should be the next opponent for the winner of the Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson bout. Nurmagomedov, however, doesn’t feel like McGregor has earned a rematch.
Khabib doubts Conor McGregor’s status as a true lightweight contender
The two famously fought at UFC 229, where Nurmagomedov dominated McGregor, submitting him in the fourth round. Tensions between the two camps boiled over after the fight when Nurmagomedov climbed over the cage to attack McGregor’s cornermen. An all-out brawl ensued.
The fines and suspensions from that incident have all been fulfilled, but Nurmagomedov feels like the drama of the situation is the only thing motivating calls for a rematch. The victory was decisive and he doesn’t think that McGregor has done enough to be considered a true contender to his lightweight championship.
“Cowboy always lose all his main event fights. Always. I don’t remember when he win. But in last 10 fights, he lose seven times, six or seven times. He is not high level lightweight or welterweight right now. Of course he has big name, but his time is finished,” Nurmagomedov said, assessing McGregor’s return bout in January.
“Conor pick very good opponent. Now he come back and beat Cowboy who lose last 10 fights, seven times, and then they talk about (McGregor) come back. No, he have to fight with really tough opponents, like Justin Gaethje or something like this. He has to come back to lightweight division. He have to cut weight.
“I think he is just ducking for tough match-ups, not just Justin Gaethje. He just choose okay who is going to be my next fight, I need easy fight.”
The Khabib vs. Conor money match-up: Bring the drama
Nurmagomedov knows he could make a boatload of money by fighting McGregor again, but insists that isn’t what drives him.
“I think people want to see… just continue what happened last time,” Nurmagomedov said in reference to the out of the cage incidents. “They just want to see drama. Like if you ask people, ‘What do you think guys? Who do you think is going to win?’ 99 percent are going to say, ‘Like he did the first time.’ People just want to see big drama show.”
“If we’re talking about money, this is good. If we’re talking about drama, this is good. If we’re talking about real lightweight contender or real lightweight championship fight, this is not good,” he continued. ” This is not real lightweight championship fight, but if we talk about drama and money, of course this is good, but I come here to make my legacy.
“For my legacy, I have to beat tough opponents like Dustin Poirier, like (Al) Iaquinta. Right now, it’s Tony Ferguson. I have to beat all of them, who is like real contenders, not fake contenders.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov disses Conor McGregor, calls Tony Ferguson toughest yet
(Courtesy of TMZSports)