Khabib Nurmagomedov hasn't fought since April 2014, and he's looking to make a splash when he makes his long-awaited return to the UFC Octagon.
"I think, first of all, I need to stay healthy, and next year, I think March is a perfect date for me," Nurmagomedov told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I need to fight somebody in March and fight for the title maybe [at] UFC 200...This is my little dream now."
Nurmagomedov's "little dream" already has some players, too. While many fighters are reluctant to pick a fight with any specific opponent, the 27-year-old Nurmagomedov has a few names in mind for his UFC return.
"I think it's perfect [if I fight] [Anthony] Pettis or [Eddie] Alvarez, or I think maybe Tony Ferguson," he said. "If the UFC doesn't give him [Ferguson] a title fight, I think we need to fight for the number-one contender fight. Tony Ferguson has a seven-[fight] win[ning] streak, and he deserves a title shot or a fight with me."
Since defeating current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on Fox 11, Nurmagomedov has suffered a litany of injuries. Most recently, a rib injury forced him out of a matchup with Tony Ferguson at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale in Las Vegas.
While this inactivity is frustrating to fans, Nurmagomedov told Helwani the situation is no easier for him to bear, either.
"When I had [the] injury, I was very upset," Nurmagomedov said. "I was very upset with me, with myself, because I'm injured, injured, injured. This happened again, again, again. Sometimes this [can break you mentally]. [I haven't] fought in almost two years…[When]I cannot fight, this is very hard for my heart. My heart wants competition. My heart wants [to] fight. This is my blood.
"I understand about fans, why these guys are very upset. I'm very upset with myself, too. Next year, I'll come back...I cannot say why I am injured all the time, but I think I need to change something, and I know what I [should] change, but I don't want to tell you and tell fans about what I think, but we'll see. We'll see."
Nurmagomedov ultimately could not reveal the exact changes he plans to make in training, but he did mention it was "possible" to move his camp full-time to San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Currently, Nurmagomedov begins his training camps in his native Dagestan before coming stateside for the final touches.
When Nurmagomedov does make his return, there may be a new addition to the lightweight division in the form of one Conor McGregor. The newly crowned UFC featherweight champion has long talked about moving from 145 to 155 pounds, and these talks heated up following McGregor's 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194.
To Nurmagomedov, though, McGregor needs to stay at featherweight for a bit. There's some unfinished business for him there.
"I think, my opinion, [is that] Conor has to stay in featherweight division," Nurmagomedov said. "Because, if he moves to lightweight, a lot of people will say, 'Hey, you [haven't done] everything in featherweight. Because you have one beef here. This is Frankie Edgar.' And everyone agrees with me.
"This is first. I think Conor needs to stay in  and fight for the title with Frankie."