When Pat Healy choked out Jim Miller at UFC 159, he scored the biggest win of his career.
Not only did he beat a quality opponent, he secured $130,000 in bonus money for “Fight of the Night” and “Submission of the Night.” Then his marijuana test came back positive and he lost the bonus money, had his win changed to a no-contest and was suspended for 90 days.
“It wasn’t a fun time,” Healy told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “The day I found out, I think I just sat in my room with the lights off for the rest of the day, just kind of kicking myself. I made a huge mistake and I paid for it and I’m ready to get back in there and wipe that from people’s memory.”
Healy returns Sept. 21 to face Khabib Nurmagomedov in a lightweight bout at UFC 165. Although Healy’s been on an impressive run, winning six straight before his no-contest against Miller, Nurmagomedov has never been beat. In his four UFC fights, the Russian has shown a variety of skills, but perhaps most notable is his penchant for throwing opponents.
“He’s really good at it, so I have been working on a lot of stuff,” Healy said. “I’ve got to keep my center of gravity low if he does get to those spots. I’ve got to find a way to keep my hips lower than his so he can’t get that elevation. I’ve been trying to work on it a lot and I think I’ll be able to combat it fairly successfully and hopefully not get into those positions where he can take advantage of it.”
Healy noted that Nurmagomedov likes to shoot in and move straight to an opponent’s back in the clinch. Of course, Healy can wrestle too, but he plans on tweaking his game plan against Nurmagomedov.
“I won’t be as eager to enter the clinch as I normally do, but I don’t want to get too far away from what I do well and try to be a completely different fighter in there,” Healy said.
Which means he’ll look to pressure Nurmagomedov.
“I think that style has always worked well for me,” Healy explained. “I’m not like an especially explosive, gifted athlete like that, so I do kind of have to employ that pressure style. It’s always worked well for me and I think it opens up a lot. I always have a lot of faith in my conditioning, especially now working at the Sports Lab. They really make sure I’m in great shape. I think I’ll enter this fight even in the best shape I ever have. I know everybody always says that, but I really feel like that’s what’s going to wear him down in those later rounds.”
Healy expects to use plenty of lateral movement against his 24-year-old opponent. He’ll look to stay in Nurmagomedov’s face without rushing straight in.
“I don’t want to just come bull rushing into him because I think if you do that, you’ll get launched,” Healy said.
Rather, he hopes to outwork Nurmagomedov and wear him out over the course of 15 minutes. And if a win over a fast-riser like Nurmagomedov doesn’t get Healy back on track after the Miller no-contest, it will only be because he was never off track in the first place.
“I think the performance still stands at least in my mind,” Healy said. “To me it still feels like I have a ton of momentum and I’m still on a great winning streak.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 16:08).