No respect for Poirier in cage, says Khabib as UFC 242 dawns - GulfToday

No respect for Poirier in cage, says Khabib as UFC 242 dawns

No respect for Poirier in cage,  says Khabib as UFC 242 dawns

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier at the weigh-in in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

MMA fans worldwide have descended in their hordes on the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, where UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is expecting to seal his legacy against interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier on Saturday at The Arena -- the two men all set for a mouthwatering title unification bout at UFC 242.

The Russian UFC lightweight ruler Khabib donned his famous papakha headgear at the weigh-in on Friday morning, before vowing that he was “ready for a five-round war” against Poirier. Khabib and Poirier both made the weight, the Dagestani fighter in particular rubbishing suggestions from some quarters that he would struggle to hit the 155lbs lightweight limit.

The eagerly awaited main bout of Saturday evening is another one of those fights that gets the butterflies scrambling in the stomach of fight fans, and as the buzz gets deafening on the lead-up to fight day, it’s a reminder of how life has changed for Khabib in the last two years.

“A lot of things changed,” he admits. “Big attention, a little bit of pressure because a lot of people know me. But I saw a lot of champions, when they become champion they changed because they don’t train like how they did before. You have to stay focused, stay hungry, stay training hard. You can’t change because then a lot of young guys, hungry guys are gonna come and change you. If you want to be in this sport, you have to focus one hundred percent. If you lose something, somebody is gonna beat you.”

That’s something Khabib won’t let happen if he has anything to do with it. If Poirier is the one to put a loss on that 27-0 record, it will be because he was the better man in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. It won’t be because Khabib was enjoying life as a celebrity. He’s a fighter, first and foremost, and he believes this isn’t a mindset you can learn.

“I think this is what you have inside, you can’t change it,” he said. “But a lot of people don’t have this.”

Khabib has it. So does Poirier. That’s why this is one of the biggest fights of 2019. And the 30-year-old expects nothing less from his second title defence in the UAE.

Poirier is as ready as he’s going to be for this fight, and that’s what Nurmagomedov wants. But beyond that, the Russian powerhouse isn’t interested in what ‘The Diamond’ has planned for him.

“I never think about what my opponents think,” he said. “I don’t care about this. I always focus on myself. I have to be ready for a five-round war, five rounds of a very tough fight. What he thinks about, I don’t care. When I go to the cage, I’m gonna do my thing. My goal is always the same: catch my opponents, maul them, make them tired, talk with them and make them tap.”

“My father is going to be in my corner in Abu Dhabi because it’s very easy for Russian people to travel to the Emirates, so Saturday is going to be a big, big night for my legacy,” added Khabib.

“I respect him like a fighter, like a human being,” said Khabib of Poirier. “But when I go to the cage, I can’t respect him.”

And when it’s over?

“There can only be one king of the jungle.”

Elsewhere at lightweight, Khabib’s team-mate Islam Makhachev is out for a sixth consecutive UFC win against Brazil’s Davi Ramos, who is chasing a fifth straight Octagon victory, while Russian-Austrian Mairbek Taisumov attempt to improve his 27-5 professional MMA record against Brazil’s Diego Ferreira, who is undefeated in the UFC since January 2016.

Germany’s Ottman Azaitar, who holds an undefeated 11-0 professional MMA record, making his UFC debut against Finland’s Teemu Packalen, who has one win and two defeats in three previous UFC appearances.

In the only heavyweight bout, American TKO expert Curtis Blaydes will face Russia’s Shamil Abdurakhimov, who holds a 20-4 MMA career record, while German bantamweight Khalid Taha will face another UFC debutant, Brazil’s Bruno Silva, who has amassed 14 wins –– including 12 KOs –– in his last 15 professional MMA fights.

In the welterweight division, France’s Nordine Taleb will battle Muslim ‘King of Kung Fu’ Salikho, who has one win and one defeat in two previous UFC bouts.

With 26 fighters in the 13-bout fight card stepping on the scales during the UFC 242 weigh-in, thousands of spectators of all ages – hailing from countries as geographically diverse as Russia and Brazil - took a deep dive into the world’s leading MMA organisation and other fan-facing activations at the UFC Fan Experience.