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Khabib Nurmagomedov on Dustin Poirier fight: ‘I have to maul him, like I do with everybody’

MMA: UFC 229-Nurmagomedov vs McGregor
Khabib Nurmagomedov will face Dustin Poirier next.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier does indeed appear to be the next step for the UFC’s lightweight division.

Speaking Saturday on the UFC St. Petersburg post-fight show, Nurmagomedov, the reigning UFC lightweight champion, admitted that he was surprised by Poirier’s interim title win over Max Holloway at UFC 236 and said that preliminary discussions have already begun for a unification match between he and Poirier for September, likely at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

“I think it was a very good performance from Dustin Poirier,” Nurmagomedov said on ESPN+. “Honestly, before the fight, I thought Holloway was going to beat him. This is my prediction when we talk with fans, with father, with team. But he impress me. Dustin impressed me.

“I think he has very good boxing, much better than before. Every fight, he becomes stronger and better in boxing, on his feet. And I think he deserves [the] title show. I think because he’s already interim UFC lightweight champion, I am real lightweight champion, we have to fight. And now we’re working on this.”

Nurmagomedov (27-0) is currently serving a nine-month suspension stemming from his post-fight brawl with members of Conor McGregor’s team following his one-sided rout of McGregor at UFC 229 in October 2018.

An undefeated sambo savant, Nurmagomedov has run roughshod over the UFC’s lightweight division since entering the promotion in 2012, racking up a flawless 11-0 record that includes victories over McGregor, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, and Rafael dos Anjos, among others. His fight against McGregor at UFC 229 shattered records as the highest-selling pay-per-view in mixed martial arts history.

Poirier (25-5, 1 NC), meanwhile, has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s lightweight division following a long and roller-coaster road to gold.

At UFC 236, the 30-year-old American captured the interim lightweight title in his 22nd Octagon appearance with his hard-fought victory over Holloway. Poirier will now ride a four-fight win streak into his title unification bout against Nurmagomedov, a run highlighted by impressive victories over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Holloway.

“Long time, I follow him. He have very good background,” Nurmagomedov said of Poirier. “He have good ground game, not bad. He have good striking game. I follow him a long time. And, versus me? I think I have to maul him, like I do with everybody. This is what I have to do. I respect him like fighter, like human, but when we go to the cage, I have to maul this guy. This is what I want. And right now I’m focused on September, five months before fight, and I think it’s going to be very good fight with him.”

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