Heading into UFC 254, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has remained unbeaten in the promotion since his arrival in 2012, as he has dealt with every opponent with relative ease when they meet inside the Octagon.
Nurmagomedov has met noteworthy competitors like Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta and former two-division champion, Conor McGregor, in fights he had no issue with. There is one, however, that Nurmagomedov has deemed the toughest for him and its was his most recent title unification against former interim lightweight champion, Dustin Poirier.
Speaking with Reebok Russia ahead of his upcoming title unification against current interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, Nurmagomedov explained why the Poirier fight stands out from the rest.
“The fight with Dustin Poirier was emotionally tough, as it was my father’s first time by my side at the UFC corner,” said Nurmagomedov. “We were in Abu Dhabi, but I knew that almost the entire stadium was pulling for me. A lot of my relatives and friends were there, so I felt pressure. It can be very difficult when your family is around. It is not much easier for them than it is for me, you know. I knew they were nervous. I knew that no matter what I said, they would not calm down. When I was announced, I asked my father, “Are you nervous?” He confirmed. Then I told him: “That’s all right, don’t worry, we’ll figure it all out now”. And we did.”
Nurmagomedov makes his return to Abu Dhabi for the fight against Gaethje, who is widely considered the fighter with the best chance to dethrone the champion. While Nurmagomedov is confident in his abilities to stop that from happening, he does admit that the preparation for Gaethje was tough as well.
“This preparation was the toughest both psychologically and physically,” said Nurmagomedov. “But, I believe the harder you work, the sweeter the victory. I prepare properly and ensure I do what is necessary to win. During the fight, I just do my job. I believe in myself; I believe in God, and I understand that victory is only granted by God.”
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