After watching Dustin Poirier outlast Max Holloway to claim the interim lightweight title at UFC 236, Khabib Nurmagomedov believes “The Diamond” has earned his shot at a championship unification bout.
Nurmagomedov discussed the potential bout during an interview on ESPN+ following UFC St. Petersburg on Saturday. The reigning lightweight king admitted that he didn’t expect Poirier to defeat Holloway last weekend.
“I think it was very good performance from Dustin Poirier. Honestly, before fight I think Holloway going to beat him,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is my prediction when you talk with friends, with father, with team, but he impressed me. Dustin has impressed me. I think he has very good boxing, much better than before. Every fight he becomes stronger, better in boxing on his feet. I think he deserve title shot. He already interim UFC lightweight champion, I am real lightweight champion. We have to fight. Now we’re working on this.”
It took Poirier 22 UFC bouts to receive his first title shot, and while Nurmagomedov respects his future foe, he expects to be able to impose his will as he always does. The target for Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier seems to be September.
“He have very good background, he have good ground game — not bad — he have good striking game,” Nurmagomedov said. “I follow him long time and versus me — I think I have to maul him like I do with everybody. This is what I have to do. I respect him like fighter, like human, but when we go to the cage I have to maul this guy. This is what I want and right now I am focused on September. Five month before fight and I think it’s going to be really good fight with him.”
Nurmagomedov last appeared at UFC 229, where he submitted Conor McGregor in the fourth round of the evening’s headliner. He was suspended nine months for leaving the Octagon to attack McGregor’s corner and sparking a melee at the conclusion of the bout. Nurmagomedov’s sanction will be complete in July.