In an interview ahead of his UFC 254 title defense against Justin Gaethje, the undefeated UFC lightweight champion was asked his thoughts about who could be the next challenger for his title.
With a blockbuster rematch between McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and Poirier (27-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC) looming, Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) is open to potentially fighting the winner. However, the fight between McGregor and Poirier, which has been offered for January, must not take place at welterweight – if either wants an immediate title shot, that is.
“I still feel this but you have to fight at 155,” Nurmagomedov told TSN on Monday. “If they fight at 170 or 185, this is not lightweight contender fight. If you want to fight at lightweight contender for the belt you have to fight at lightweight. What is this, like? ‘OK, I’m champion at 155. OK, give me a fight at 170. OK, let’s make weight with Justin Gaethje at 170.’ Same thing. If you want to fight for the title at 155, you have to make 155.”
Nurmagomedov and Poirier squared off at UFC 242 in September 2019, with the Russian champion winning by third-round submission via rear-naked choke. Though they were largely respectful toward one another at the time, and have remained that way since, Nurmagomedov was critical of Poirier decision to let McGregor dictate the terms of the fight.
“I don’t understand why Dustin show his weakness,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is just my opinion. You have to say something. Hey, this is my opinion. He has to do something to it. OK, they ask him to fight. Conor say ‘I’m going to donate you, money.’ He said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, anywhere,’ but Dustin is a lightweight fighter. He’s not a welterweight fighter. Why are you going to fight at 170? If you want to fight for the title next, you have to make 155 (and) fight in the lightweight division. This is just my opinion. We’ll see. We’ll see.”
Nurmagomedov and Gaethje (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) headline UFC 254 on Saturday at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The main card streams on pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN 2/ESPN+.