The last man to beat UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos returned from a two-year hiatus Saturday night, defeating Darrel Horcher via second-round TKO at UFC on FOX 19, but failed to impress the titleholder.
Nurmagomedov was initially scheduled to headline the event against Tony Ferguson, but the rising lightweight was forced out of the bout due to an injury. The Dagestani ended up facing a 12-1 UFC newcomer in Tampa, and asked for a shot at the gold after the win.
"I was not even a little impressed," dos Anjos told MMA Fighting about Nurmagomedov’s win over Horcher. "He fought a guy who has a full-time job and took the fight on a week’s notice. After the first minute, with all due respect, (Horcher) looked pink, completely out of shape, and (Khabib) still needed almost two rounds to finish the fight.
"Congratulations to the opponent that accepted the fight, but there’s no way... When I lost to Khabib, I was ranked No. 5 or 6 and many things have changed since. He beat a guy who has a full-time job, and I beat Jason High, Ben Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone."
dos Anjos lost a decision to Nurmagomedov in April 2014, and finished three of his next six opponents inside the Octagon since, while the Dagestani improved to 23-0 in MMA.
"He’s saying he needs some rest because he trained for three months for this fight?" dos Anjos said. "Wait a minute… Forty days after fighting him, I fought Jason High. Two months later, I fought Ben Henderson. When you want the belt, you have to work for it. I think that after a performance like that, he should at least fight Tony Ferguson in May. The number of UFC fights he has, I did it in one year.
"I offered him to fight me in July when his fight got cancelled, but he couldn’t do it for religious reasons, I guess, but the opportunity was offered and he didn’t say yes. Now he beats a guy who has a full-time job and thinks he deserves a title shot? In my opinion, he does not. He has to work more. He can’t live the rest of his life saying ‘oh, I beat Rafael, I’m the champion without the belt’. He has to work. Forget about that. I’ve done a lot of things and evolved more since that fight."
dos Anjos is currently booked to defend the lightweight belt against Eddie Alvarez on July 7, and Nurmagomedov can’t fight around that date due to Ramadan. Asked if he would be interested in fighting at UFC’s return to New York on Nov. 12 against the last man to beat him, dos Anjos said the lightweight contender isn’t quite deserving of a title fight just yet.
"I can’t make plans for November in April," said the champion. "Khabib hasn’t fought in two years and wants to take six months off? What is that? If I take two years off, I would want to fight as much as possible. Many things will happen until November. I think he should fight more. He can’t expect to fight for the title whenever he wants, especially since his results don’t guarantee that. He beat a guy who has a full-time job."
Winner of 10 of his last 11 fights, dos Anjos guarantees that a rematch with Nurmagomedov would be "completely different".
"I was a different fighter back then," dos Anjos said. "I’ve done wrong things with my diet and my personal life, and I wasn’t 100 percent focused in the fight. It would be a completely different fight now. Take a look at my results and his results. It would be completely different. Two years have passed, the game has changed, and he needs better results."