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Manager: Khabib Nurmagomedov will not fight for ‘no damn interim belt’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Khabib Nurmagomedov is drawing a line in the sand.

According to his manager Ali Abdelaziz, Nurmagomedov refuses to entertain the idea of fighting for the interim lightweight title.

“Khabib’s next fight, we’re not fighting for no damn interim belt,” Abdelaziz said. “We want the real belt, or we don’t want nothing. We appreciate everything the UFC has done for us, but it’s time for a real belt. Nobody is interested in fighting for a fake belt. Tony Ferguson has a fake belt. Nobody wants this.”

Nurmagomedov (25-0) won a dominant unanimous decision over Edson Barboza last month at UFC 219. After the fight, Nurmagomedov said he hoped to fight three times in 2018: once before May, then in September and followed by December.

The Russian-born Nurmagomedov, a devout Muslim, will not fight during Ramadan, so the UFC would have to book him before mid-May, which is when Ramadan starts, in order to ensure he fights three times this year.

Internally, there has been talk of holding a pay-per-view in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 7. That location would make a lot of sense for a potential Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson title fight considering the large Russian population in Brooklyn. According to sources, though, no decision has been made just yet as to what the promotion will do next with the three-man logjam atop the lightweight division.

On Thursday, UFC color analyst Joe Rogan predicted on his podcast that the UFC would strip Conor McGregor of the lightweight belt and book Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov for the official title. Ferguson, who is coming off elbow surgery, has yet to provide an update as to when he could possibly return to action.

Also on Thursday, Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap, told local Russian media that if Nurmagomedov couldn’t get a fight against either McGregor or Ferguson next that he would like to see his son fight Edde Alvarez. Alvarez, though, is currently on the last fight of his UFC contract with no new deal in sight.

So while the UFC has some big decisions to make regarding one of its deepest weight classes, one thing appears to be certain: Nurmagomedov is not interested in fighting for an interim title.

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