Dubai: As he prepares to take on American Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi, reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to leave an everlasting legacy in the sport.
Next Saturday’s UFC 242 — at The Arena, Yas Island — will be a UFC Lightweight Championship title unification bout between the current and interim champions.
And the man from Russia’s Dagestan region has vowed to leave behind a memorable trail for generations to come.
“If you are a fighter then you want to be the best. You have to always aspire to be number one or nothing at all. I need to worry about being the number one, but at the same time I shouldn’t care too much about it. I need to just focus on every single opponent who wants to challenge me,” Khabib said in a conference call interview conducted late on Friday.
“Next Saturday is perhaps one of the most important fights for me. [If] I defeat Dustin [Poirier] and maybe I become the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” he added.
Saturday’s bout will headline the Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, which got under way at The Arena from September 1.
Going in with an unbeaten 11-0 record in the UFC and an even more dominant 27-0 in MMA fights, Khabib insisted he was not in favour of switching weight classes.
“Lightweight is my division and I do not want to change my division. I don’t care what people think or have to say about this,” he said.
“If you want to leave a legacy in the sport then you have to beat the toughest opponents and ensure you stay unbeaten. This is the real fact of life and our sport,” he added.
Khabib landed in the UAE nearly two weeks ago to acclimatise and prepare himself for the Poirier challenge on September 7.
The Russian — who turns 30 on September 20 — will have his father Abdulmanap in his corner for the very first time at the Abu Dhabi bout.
He is currently ranked No. 2 in the official pound-for-pound rankings behind Jon Jones, widely regarded as one of the most dangerous and greatest fighters of all-time.
A professional competitor since 2009, the 30-year-old Poirier comes to UFC 242 on the back of a series of successes including a couple of wins over champion Max Holloway and once each against Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethie and Anthony Pettis.
“There is a lot of respect between us even though this is a very tough and unforgiving sport,” Nurmagomedov said.
“Dustin (17-4 UFC; 25-5 MMA) has beaten many big guys and that makes him a tough opponent for sure. This experience, even if he has lost against some, makes him even tougher. My last fight [against Conor McGregor] was [toxic] like a poison, but now I have an opponent I can be respect. However, once the cage closes, it will be a high level match-up and I will only see one enemy inside the cage,” he added.