In retrospect, maybe it wasn't a good idea to admit the effectiveness of Khabib Nurmagomedov's trash talk.
Speaking at a fan Q&A in Dallas over the weekend, lightweight contender Donald Cerrone confessed that the relentless social media chatter from his UFC 187 opponent was really starting to get under his skin, and when told about that fact on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Nurmagomedov couldn't help but laugh.
"It's just funny," Nurmagomedov said between chuckles. "Cowboy is fake. I don't think so he's really cowboy, I think he's fake. He all the time drink, drunk. I don't think so he's really cowboy. I'm really cowboy. I'm mountain guy. I'm training camp all my life, I'm wrestling with the bears. I'm really cowboy. He's drunk guy. I am Dagestan cowboy, 100-percent.
"You know why he's a little bit nervous?" Nurmagomedov added. "Because I say truth. I say truth. I no say trash talk, I say truth, and he's a little bit nervous. He needs wrestling, he needs wrestling partners. But it's okay. After two months we have fight, we have crazy fight, and when cage close, he understand, ‘Wow, this guy's crazy. Why I take this fight? Why I take this fight?' Because I want to smash this guy. He say I won't smash this guy? [He say,] ‘I kick his ass.' Okay. 23rd, May. 23rd, May."
When Nurmagomedov and Cerrone eventually do meet at UFC 187, the first lightweight title shot against newly-minted champion Rafael dos Anjos will be up for grabs.
With his perfect 22-0 record, Nurmagomedov has actually seen his stock improve while he's been sidelined with a torn ACL, largely because of the path of destruction dos Anjos has paved across the upper echelon of the lightweight ranks and the fact that Nurmagomedov dismantled dos Anjos just 10 months ago in a one-sided contest at UFC on FOX 11.
Nurmagomedov was one of few who predicted that dos Anjos would "smash" former champ Anthony Pettis, and now that the Brazilian has done exactly that, Nurmagomedov believes he can rightly call himself the best lightweight in the world.
"I do what I want. I feel I am number-one now," Nurmagomedov said. "I feel I am number-one. Twenty-six years old and I am young, I am hungry and I do what I want. When cage close, Cowboy, you need fly. And you fly 100-percent."
Cerrone recently put the finishing touches on a streak that saw him win seven straight fights in a 14-month span and propel his name back into title contention. But nowhere during that streak did he meet an opponent like Nurmagomedov, and "Cowboy" admitted during his Friday Q&A that he's been forced to shore up his wrestling base in advance of May 23.
Cerrone even teased that maybe he'll surprise some people and choose to take Nurmagomedov down, though the Sambo savant from Dagestan doubts that'll be the case.
"I think I take this fight easy. Like dos Anjos, same fight," Nurmagomedov said. "Maybe I second or third round I finish him. Maybe I give him kimura. This is my plan. If Cowboy listening, please, Cowboy need training different for kimura. He need different. This is no joke. After fight we talk about this.
"Yesterday I read he say, he better than Ronda Rousey grappling-wise," Nurmagomedov added. "But I think Ronda Rousey can beat Cowboy because Cowboy's wrestling definitely is zero. Maybe she take him down 10 times and he's done. But yesterday I read this. He say, ‘I grapple with Ronda Rousey.' I think maybe seven or 10 times she take him down and he's done, because Cowboy no like takedowns. He's scared. He not like scared takedowns and he needs go kickboxing. But in MMA, this is very dangerous for him because you have fight with me, I am takedown machine. Twenty-one times, I have record. And when I have fight with him, I want new record. Maybe 25, 24. And after fight we talk about this. Don't forget."