Before he stepped into the Octagon on Saturday night to do battle with Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, Khabib Nurmagomedov said he didn’t waste much time thinking about his standing in the pound-for-pound rankings.
After a dominating performance that saw him take Poirier down multiple times and then submitting him in the third round, the undefeated Russian had a change of tune.
With one of the most impressive resumes in the history of the sport while losing only one round in his entire UFC career, Nurmagomedov believes he’s done enough to secure his place as the best pound-for-pound fighter in all of mixed martial arts.
“You know what’s interesting in this sport, even if you’re 28-0, 12-0 in the UFC, you’re one of the biggest stars, you smash everybody, people are going to talk about you ‘have to fight him, you have to fight with him, you have to fight with him’ — give me just respect,” Nurmagomedov said at the UFC 242 post fight press conference.
“Put me on No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter next week because I think I deserve this. Because I dominate with all my opponents. I’m undefeated. I think I deserve some respect.”
It’s hard to disagree with his logic considering the way Nurmagomedov has run roughshod over arguably the deepest and most dangerous division in the sport.
According to the UFC rankings, the only fighter currently sitting above Nurmagomedov is reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who took back the top spot following Daniel Cormier’s knockout loss to Stipe Miocic in August.
Ultimately it’s a subjective argument so there’s no right or wrong answer but obviously Nurmagomedov feels like he’s done enough to finally earn that recognition as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
If he doesn’t get that spot night, Nurmagomedov may be able to settle any debate should he get through former interim champion Tony Ferguson in his next fight. Both fighters are riding 12-bout win streaks in the UFC and all signs are pointing towards an eventual collision course in the near future.