Nicklas Backstrom: Conor McGregor 'dodged a bullet' when they didn't fight

Esther Lin

Make some room, Conor McGregor. You're no longer the only brash-talking European in the UFC's featherweight division.

Niklas Backstrom turned heads in his UFC debut recently, when he finished Tom Niinimaki with a no-hooks bulldog choke at the UFC Fight Night card in Germany.

Monday, the 24-year-old Swede checked in with The MMA Hour. And he said McGregor got lucky when a 2011 fight between the two had to be scrapped.

"I think he kind of dodged a bullet there," Backstrom said.

The two were scheduled to compete on a Cage Warriors card in Jordan, but according to Backstrom's version of events, he broke his hand the day before he was supposed to fly out to the card and had to pull out.

"I was supposed to fight him, but I broke my hand the day before I was going to go there," he said.

Still, though, Backstrom feels a date with the loudmouthed Irishman is one he'd like to re-make.

"I don't think I'm as disrespectful as him," Backstrom said. "I would love to fight the guy that is a little more disrespectful than Tom so I can unleash my furor some time."

Until that date comes -- which isn't likely any time soon, considering McGregor will headline the July 19 card in Dublin -- we'll have to go on what we've seen from the undefeated Backstrom, who trains at Stockholm's Allstars gym alongside the likes of Alexander Gustafsson.

The Niinimaki finish went exactly as Backstrom pictured.

"It all started with the rear naked choke for me," he said. "From there I developed it without hooks or anything. You can call it the bulldog choke or whatever but for me I'm thinking of going for the the rear naked choke and I knew when I got it at the beginning there it was over.

"I train with really good guys on the ground and no one gets away when I put it on," he continued. "He tapped and the referee, I was like ‘ahh s--- I won.' It was great. I was thinking about taking it easy in the first round because I took it on short notice and antibiotics before the fight because my tooth swelled up."

His nifty bit of submission work was good for a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Not bad for someone who says he's been working at quarters for the criminally insane in order to pay his rent.

"It's a lot of money, you know," said Backstrom. "I haven't had that much money in so long, I'm going for my dream all the time, I'm kind of searching for months trying to get rent to pay for everything so it kinds of stress us out. It was pretty nice to get some money and relax for once. When I don't work out in my rest days I work a lot of different jobs as bouncer and other things but mostly at the mental institute for the criminally insane. It's awesome. ... It's not like the movies, no. I thought it sounded pretty fun, I probably thought it was going to be a lot more like the movies, that's a perfect job for me. It sounded kind of cool, so I thought let's try that out."

While Backstrom was on the line, it only made sense to ask what he thought about Gustafsson's chances when he meets Jon Jones in their light heavyweight title rematch on Sept. 27. Backstrom sees a knockout in his Allstars teammate's future.

"I don't know if [Jones is], afraid but I think he's definitely worried.," Backstrom said. "Alex is the first guy to show he's not a superman. I think he's a little bit worried about his reign on the top being over. I think. I think it's standup, he knocks him out. I think he can do it."

More bold words, there. But that's not the end of it. How does Backstrom think he'd fare against Zuffa's longest-reigning current champion, Jose Aldo Jr.?

"I'll find a way to beat him," Backstrom said. "I want to be the best and I think I am the best, so let's say top three so people will think I am humble."

Just don't call Backstrom the second coming of McGregor.

"I'm the first coming of me," he corrects.

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