Born in Germany to Afghan parents, Nasrat Haqparast is adamant that Khabib Nurmagomedov will treated like a superstar when he travels to Abu Dhabi to defend his lightweight title against Dustin Poirier on Sept. 7 at UFC 242.
Haqparast took a stoppage win over Joaquim Silva on the recent UFC Newark card, but underlined that he would have loved to compete on the Abu Dhabi card had it taken place earlier in the year.
“When they told me [UFC 242] was in September it was too long [to wait], my last fight was the end of October, my next fight was supposed to be in March but a small injury forced me out and I was waiting for a fight,” Haqparast told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.
“Abu Dhabi sounds amazing, but for me, I just wanted to stay as active as possible... if I can fight two or three times this year it would be amazing. I always stay in shape, I’m always training and it’s not the last time the UFC will be coming to Abu Dhabi… I think the UFC signed a four- or five-year contract so they’re going to be back next year.”
“For me, it’s not so important where I fight, what card I’m on or how big the event is, for me I just love to fight; I love the competition and I want to stay as active as possible,” he added.
Nurmagomedov became a star through his highly publicized clash with Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last year. Citing the press conference in which the Irishman offered Nurmagomedov, a devout Muslim, a glass of whiskey, Haqparast highlighted why he believes family and religion should be left out of pre-fight trash talk.
“In my opinion, what Conor did there was not good. You should never attack family or religion. Of course trash talk promotes a fight, so it’s important. It’s Conor’s thing to trash talk, but family and religion is a line that you should not cross. Khabib stayed very calm, his reaction [to Conor offering him whiskey at the UFC 229 press conference] really impressed me. How many people can be calm in this situation? I am a really religious person too.”
Based on the growth of his celebrity over the last year, Haqparast believes Nurmagomedov will receive a hero’s welcome in Abu Dhabi next month.
“In Abu Dhabi, [Khabib] is going to be a superstar. We have a lot of support, it’s amazing, from these countries. The people there are really passionate. In Afghanistan for example, I represent Afghanistan when I fight because they don’t have many [people to support] in the UFC or in combat sports. I want to be a role model for our people, everybody. But especially for people who are poor and who don’t think they have a big chance in life. Even if I can just motivate five people out of millions I’m happy, I’ve done something good in this world,” he said.
“For sure, Khabib is going to be a superstar in Abu Dhabi—it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere, I look forward to it.”
Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Nasrat Haqparast interview begins at 43:00.