#1 lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov was offered a shot at then champion Eddie Alvarez, but it appeared to have been used as a lever, to make Conor McGregor understand that UFC 205 would go on with or without him. The Russian was not impressed but took a fight at UFC 205 with Michael Johnson, with the understand that the next fight had to be for the title, or he will leave the league.
The fight with Johnson ended up being on the FOX Sports 1 prelim card, but in a recent interview with Russia Today, Nurmagomedov was unconcerned about the placement.
“I felt good because [whether] the UFC puts me on the main card or prelims, it doesn’t matter,” he said, as transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting. “You have to fight. Main card cage closes the same in prelims, same cage closes… But I think UFC put me in prelims because they don’t want to make my name as big because they have to take care of Conor. They don’t want to promote my name very good.”
“For UFC’s lightweight division my style is very hard. Because I have pressure, I can take you down – body, single leg, double leg. I have very good conditioning. I know this. To stop me with my style my opponent needs to knock me out.”
“Conor is a very good striking guy – everybody knows this. He has very good boxing, timing, his counter-punches are very good. But everybody knows I have a top control, wrestling, pressure. Why I need to stay stand up with him? I’m gonna take him down, I’m gonna slap him, make him nervous, talk with him, and make him give up.”
As for McGregor, for the UFC, it is the best of times it is the worst of times. McGregor is the first fighter to ever hold two belts at once. And in the past year, his PPV buys were double that of the rest of league combined.
Bad news is, he doesn’t want to fight until the birth of his first child in May. Further, he doesn’t want to fight until the league gives him equity. And the guy he most wants to fight appears to be Floyd Mayweather, under boxing rules.
And he hasn’t indicated which belt he wants to give up, saying instead that he wants to hold onto both. The fight in the UFC he has expressed most interest in is vs. welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. McGregor called Nurmagomedov a “pull out merchant” for the two years he was out with injuries.
Where all that leaves the Russian is anyone’s guess. One way through the mess would be if the UFC holds an event in Russia in the earlier part of 2017. The opportunity to fight in front of his home country would likely be a sufficient lure to get Nurmagomedov back in the Octagon vs. someone not Conor McGregor. In the absence of that, it could be a while before we see Nurmagomedov fight again.