London: UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is expecting to seal his legacy against interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier on Saturday, 7 September at The Arena in Abu Dhabi, where the two men will contest a title unification bout at UFC 242.
Speaking at a press conference in London to promote Abu Dhabi’s third UFC event — and the first since the UFC and the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi agreed a five-year partnership earlier this year — a confident Nurmagomedov revealed he is relishing a return to the octagon for the first time since defeating Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October.
“What happened last year was the beginning of my legacy and I am very excited about my comeback,” said Nurmagomedov, who holds the longest undefeated streak in MMA, with 27 wins and no losses.
“I’m hungry and it’s going to be a very big show for everyone fighting in Abu Dhabi.
“UFC and MMA are very popular in the Emirates — I can barely walk around the streets — so my focus was on Abu Dhabi before this fight was even announced.
“My father is going to be in my corner in Abu Dhabi because it’s very easy for Russian people to travel to the Emirates, so September 7 is going to be a big, big night for my legacy.”
Competition will prove strong, however, as Poirier is equally determined to unify the lightweight belts after three of his last four victories came against current or former UFC champions.
The American, who fused solid striking and a formidable ground game to end Max Holloway’s 13-fight UFC win streak and claim the interim lightweight belt in April, said: “I’m focused on making history and taking (Khabib) to places he has never been.
“I feed off good energy and I’m ready to rock. I’ll be myself, go out there and show the world what I’m capable of. Two champions are going in and one champion is coming out — it’s going to be a huge fight,”
“The Khabib-Poirier fight is set to be a thrilling match, and you can already sense the excitement among the many UFC fans here in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the Arabian Gulf region,” said Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Acting Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi.
“The hugely anticipated bouts on September 7, alongside the range of promotional activations we will be running in conjunction with UFC 242, means we are expecting this to be a truly unforgettable moment in Abu Dhabi’s event calendar.”
With the Nurmagomedov-Poirier lightweight championship face-off headlining UFC 242, a further nine fights have now been confirmed. The organisation’s packed lightweight division will be well represented in Abu Dhabi, led by a bumper co-main event between two top 10-ranked lightweights, Edson Barboza, of Brazil, and Ireland’s Paul Felder. The pair first met in July 2015 with Barboza walking away with a unanimous decision victory.
Elsewhere at lightweight, Khabib’s team-mate Islam Makhachev is out for a sixth consecutive UFC win against Brazil’s Davi Ramos, who is chasing a fifth straight Octagon victory, while Russian-Austrian Mairbek Taisumov attempt to improve his 27-5 professional MMA record against Brazil’s Diego Ferreira, who is undefeated in the UFC since January 2016. Germany’s Ottman Azaitar, who holds an undefeated 11-0 professional MMA record, making his UFC debut against Finland’s Teemu Packalen, who has one win and two defeats in three previous UFC appearances.
In the only heavyweight bout confirmed so far, American TKO expert Curtis Blaydes will face Russia’s Shamil Abdurakhimov, who holds a 20-4 MMA career record, while German bantamweight Khalid Taha will face another UFC debutant, Brazil’s Bruno Silva, who has amassed 14 wins — including 12 KOs — in his last 15 professional MMA fights. In the welterweight division, France’s Nordine Taleb will battle Muslim ‘King of Kung Fu’ Salikho, who has one win and one defeat in two previous UFC bouts.
Abu Dhabi will also host its first-ever female bouts. In a huge coup for the UAE capital, top-ranked Scottish flyweight Joanne Calderwood, the division’s fifth-ranked fighter, will face seventh-ranked American Andrea Lee, who is aiming to seal four consecutive UFC wins on her Abu Dhabi debut. Elsewhere, Georgia’s highly-rated Liana Jojua squares up against Canada’s Sarah Moras, who shot to fame by defeating Alexis Dufresne in The Ultimate Fighter Season 19 finale.