Reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has a date and venue in mind for his next title defense.
Speaking at Synergy Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, “The Eagle” laid out his plans for early next year, which ideally would include a fight against top contender Tony Ferguson on home soil.
"It will be in March or April," Nurmagomedov said (translation via RT Sport). "I said it clearly – I want to fight in a large arena and the only large indoor arena in Russia is Gazprom Arena (in St. Petersburg), so I want to fight there.”
Nurmagomedov is coming off a third-round submission of Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 7. While a rematch with Conor McGregor would be the most lucrative fight available, the Dagestani is far more interested in a showdown with Tony Ferguson, who has won 12 consecutive bouts.
"From a fighter's point of view, [the McGregor rivalry] is a thing of the past," he said. "I have nothing to prove. But he has something to prove. We know he does. There's a lot of businessmen here and I think most of them will tell me to fight him because it'll bring money. I'd fight all the main contenders first, and I could fight him to benefit my agricultural projects.
"I have to say that Tony Ferguson deserves it more. You have to give him credit. He is on a 12-fight win streak and he deserves it more than Conor. Conor has to come back [and] stop hitting old people. He is a professional fighter. He should come back, win, earn his place and get in line.”
Nurmagomedov is referencing the recent incident where McGregor punched an elderly man at a Dublin bar this past April. The Irish star has been charged with assault and faces a prison sentence of up to six months.
Nurmagomedov and McGregor have plenty of animosity in their past. The reigning 155-pound champion took exception to McGregor’s personal insults leading up to their UFC 229 meeting, and after submitting the SBG Ireland representative, Nurmagomedov leapt out of the Octagon to attack Dillon Danis to spark a melee between both corners at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
"I'm not ready to shake his hand right now," he said."Everyone makes mistakes. There are no perfect people, everyone has flaws. I have flaws and so does he.
"When a person continues to behave this way, it means that it's his nature. We saw that he recently hit a 70-year-old man. It shows a lack of morality and manners. So I'm not ready to shake his hand until he realizes something.”
However, Nurmagomedov claims he’d be willing to change his view of McGregor if his rival were to apologize for his past actions.
"Apologies always have to be accepted, no matter what he said. If a person apologizes and accepts his mistakes, we have to excuse him.”