At 27-0 in his career and the reigning lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov has already done a lot to separate himself from the rest of the fighters on the UFC roster.
He currently sits in the No. 2 position in the pound-for-pound rankings according to the UFC with only light heavyweight champion Jon Jones sitting above him.
Next weekend at UFC 242, Nurmagomedov will seek a second straight title defense when he faces interim champion Dustin Poirier in the main event from Abu Dhabi. A victory would not only keep his undefeated record in tact but Nurmagomdov would add another top ranked lightweight to his already impressive resume.
As much as it means to him to rack up title defenses and mow down the competition, the 30-year old Dagestani mauler isn’t losing any sleep at night whether or not he’s considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
“Honestly, if you’re a fighter you have to be like I want to become the best fighter in the world. I want to become pound-for-pound No. 1. You have to worry about this. You have to think like this but I don’t care about this,” Nurmagomedov said when speaking to MMA Fighting on the UFC 242 media conference call. “I just focus on my every single opponent.
“That’s why I am here. I am almost on the top pound-for-pound. This fight nothing changes. I am focused on my opponent. Of course, who knows, maybe next Saturday I’m going to finish Dustin Poirier and maybe I’m going to become pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter. Who knows. Nobody knows.”
It’s the same mentality that Nurmagomedov carries when asked about potentially pursuing additional world titles by changing weight classes.
It’s become a popular trend lately for champions from one division to either move up or move down in weight to attempt to capture a second title. Conor McGregor started the trend when he branded himself ‘champ-champ’ after winning the lightweight and featherweight championships simultaneously.
While it’s entirely possible that Nurmagomedov could serve as a potential threat to the welterweight division, he believes the resume he’s building as an undefeated champion in arguably the deepest weight class in the sport does just as much for his legacy.
“I think if you want to improve your legacy, changing weight classes, I don’t think this is a help for you,” Nurmagomedov explained. “Only thing that helps you, you have to beat tough opponents. What about when you beat tough opponents and you’re still undefeated for more than 11 years? I think this is can improve your legacy. If you lose a couple of times in the UFC and then you win one title and a second title, then you lose again, even if you win three titles, this not make you great.
“My opinion, winning undefeated a long time and you never lose, this one is real thing. This is my opinion. It doesn’t matter what people think. It doesn’t matter what they want. When you go to the cage again, again, again, you win, win, win, win, they have to talk about this guy is the best.”
With challenges ahead of him like a showdown against former interim champion Tony Ferguson or any number of contenders champing at the bit to get a shot at the title, Nurmagomedov has plenty of work to keep him busy at lightweight rather than chasing a second title in a different division.
“I don’t focus on welterweight or featherweight. My focus is on the lightweight division,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’m a real lightweight and my fight is going to be in the lightweight division.
“I don’t want to change any weight classes. I want to focus on my weight division.”