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Manager: Khabib Nurmagomedov ‘will not fight again if he doesn't get a title fight'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The battle lines continue to be drawn in the lottery to determine the next opponent of two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, and undefeated lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov appears to be leading the charge.

Nurmagomedov's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, said this week on The MMA Hour that Nurmagomedov is dead-set on not fighting again unless it is for some sort of UFC title.

"He doesn't give a sh*t who the title fight is against. He's serious," Abdelaziz said. "Khabib, financially, is very stable. And let's not forget, Khabib's purse his last fight, because he didn't fight for in title fight, he lost 80-percent of his purse, because his contract is very, very different. When he didn't fight Conor, that made his purse go down, he lost 80-percent. He only got paid 20-percent.

"Khabib is 24-0, 8-0 in the UFC. I think at this point, he deserves a title shot. But Conor's team, they're very smart, they're going to do everything in their power not to fight Khabib, the same thing they did with Frankie (Edgar). They dodged, dodged, dodged, and they chose opponents they could beat, but they didn't choose Frankie, and the same thing could happen with Khabib. But now it's different, because Khabib has a 100 million Russians behind him. The most underappreciated market to the UFC is Russia. Khabib could sell out a 100,000 seat arena, and the UFC needs Khabib for Russia."

With McGregor likely sidelined until mid-2017 due to the birth of his first child, and a host of potential opponents available for him to choose from, speculation has run rampant about what could be next for the UFC's first two-division champion. Nurmagomedov thrust himself firmly into that conversation with an emphatic victory over Michael Johnson at UFC 205, however in recent weeks the Dagestani contender has resorted to different means to get his message across, tweeting vague threats about how he "won't be fighting in UFC" if his title opportunity does not come to fruition.

Abdelaziz assured on Monday that Nurmagomedov has no intentions of attempting to break the terms his UFC contract, regardless of what he says on social media and how his situation with McGregor ultimately plays out. Although Nurmagomedov's ominous talk has not only been limited to the public arena, as he also took his fight straight to McGregor himself via Twitter direct message.

"They follow each other on Twitter and I didn't know that," Abdelaziz said.

"At the end of the day, Conor is going to get what he wants. But Khabib too, Khabib is not going to go fight f*cking any other guy. If there's no belt on the line, he's not fighting anybody. You have understand too, people are crazy. He's under UFC contract. I will never break a UFC contract and sign with another promotion. He got offered $5 million from some promotion in Russia to fight, you understand? That's how much demand this kid can get. We will never do anything like that because we always gotta honor our UFC contract."

One option that appears to be a possibility while McGregor is on the shelf is an interim title bout between Nurmagomedov and fellow top 155-pound contender Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov told Russian media this week that he plans to take a little time off, but then would be open to the idea as it would cement his place as the No. 1 lightweight contender to fight McGregor.

"I just want to go underground and take a break for a month-and-a-half," Nurmagomedov said to Russian outlet MK (translation via Bloody Elbow). "Not from training and from the media, just the media. I'm tired. And in terms of plans in the UFC, there are two: an interim title fight with Tony Ferguson, or fight for a real belt against Conor McGregor.

"Of course, I would like the second option (McGregor), but am inclined to think that they want to set me up with Ferguson. Well, I'll take the fight."

The option of an interim title bout may ultimately be the safest route for Nurmagomedov to guarantee himself a spot at the front of the line, as McGregor will certainly not lack options once he makes his return. In addition to Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, Nate DiazJose Aldo, and Tyron Woodley all have been floated as potential opponents to fight the popular Irishman.

Woodley and Diaz, in particular, have been both mentioned by name as top choices by members of McGregor's team, with McGregor's head coach John Kavanagh even going as far as saying that he firmly believed Diaz was the second-best lightweight in the division and would defeat both Nurmagomedov and Ferguson if they ever fought. And not surprisingly, both Nurmagomedov and Abdelaziz took exception to that claim.

"This guy John Kavanagh, somebody needs to bitch-slap this guy," Abdelaziz said. "This guy talks so much sh*t. This guy, I don't know who gave him his black belt. He said Nate Diaz would beat Khabib and Tony Ferguson. He's outta his mind. This guy is outta his mind. You understand, he's outta his mind, because how are you going to say that about a guy, 24-0, never lost in the UFC, never lost anything in his life?

"And now you're going to get the coaches who want to become superstars, who write books. The only guy who wins on his team, maybe Conor and then the other guy who just won the other day. You understand, they barely win fights. Focus on sucking fighting, stop talking sh*t about fighters, especially someone like Khabib. He gives him respect every time he sees him, he doesn't talk sh*t to him."