UFC

UFC 242: Curtis Blaydes excited by return of 'global icon' Khabib Nurmagomedov

By Sports Desk September 05, 2019

Khabib Nurmagomedov is a "global icon" and his return to the Octagon can only be a good thing for UFC, according to Curtis Blaydes.

It has been 11 months since lightweight champion Nurmagomedov defeated fierce rival Conor McGregor with a fourth-round submission in Las Vegas on an ugly night for UFC.

The bad blood in the build-up spilled over into a post-bout brawl that landed fines and suspensions for Nurmagomedov and McGregor.

Nurmagomedov later apologised but suggested pre-fight comments from McGregor in which he "talked about my religion, talked about my country, talked about my father" were behind the unsavoury scenes.

This weekend, Nurmagomedov returns to the Octagon for a blockbuster bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Adu Dhabi and fourth-ranked heavyweight Blaydes is excited for the 30-year-old's comeback.

"I think Khabib is a global icon, he's a star," Blaydes told Omnisport. 

"He brings in the Russian audience, the European audience. Just for me, in general, he's a great wrestler and shows you can be a star in this game being predominantly a wrestler."

In Khabib's absence, Poirier scored a unanimous decision victory over Max Holloway to become the interim lightweight champion.

Poirier has gone undefeated in six straight fights and the number-one ranked lightweight in UFC is sure to be a tough challenge for Khabib, who is unbeaten in 27 MMA outings.

But Blaydes is tipping Khabib to emerge victorious on his return.

"I would lean towards Khabib, but they're both great," he added. 

"Poirier put away Justin Gaethje, who's amazing in his own right. But, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Khabib."


UFC® 242: KHABIB vs. POIRIER coverage starts live on UFC FIGHT PASS, BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Box Office this Saturday at 3:00pm and continues exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office at 7:00pm.

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    Australian Whittaker had already been floored by a huge right hook late in the first round and a stinging left in the second brought an end to the bout.

    Adesanya made a grandstand entrance with a choreographed dance routine and the Nigeria-born New Zealander said his confident arrival was something he had planned to do in the past.

    "I tried to do that in the Anderson Silva fight in February and the UFC were like, 'no, we can't have that'," he said.

    "This fight is my show. I'm headlining this b****, so I was going to do it my way.

    "Who else, on this kind of stage, is going to do that before they go in and whoop some ass? If I could sing, trust me - Justin Bieber wouldn't even have a job." 

    Adesanya had no doubts he would pull off the victory, but confessed the gravitas of his achievement was still sinking in.

    "It feels like I'm still lucid dreaming," added the 30-year-old. "You might see me do weird things, just to see if I'm dreaming.

    "I said it was one my toughest tests, but that I'd make it look easy. I told you guys that.

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    "I saw everything coming. He hit me a few times, but I just showed that I can take and give it as well."

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    Conor McGregor wants a rematch against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Moscow, but the UFC lightweight champion was only thinking about planning his next meal after defeating Dustin Poirier.

    In his first outing since a win against McGregor in October 2018 that was overshadowed by an ugly post-fight brawl, Nurmagomedov moved to 28-0 by submitting Poirier in the third round at UFC 242.

    The Irishman has since claimed to have retired following the loss last year, but he was quick to request another shot at the Russian following Saturday's result in Abu Dhabi.

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    Nurmagomedov was keen to avoid becoming embroiled in such discussions, with his focus set on his post-fight meal.

    "You know what's interesting in this sport; even if you're 28-0 in MMA, 12-0 in UFC, you're one of the biggest stars, you smash everybody, people talk about how you have to fight with him, you have to fight with him, you have to fight with him. Just give me respect," he said.

    "My next opponent is a very good steak, with a burger and double cheese. I want this. With some juice with ice. I want to enjoy it. Give me a couple of days please."

    But when the subject turned to former two-weight world champion Georges St-Pierre, widely considered the greatest MMA fighter of all time but retired since February, Nurmagomedov could not hide his interest.

    He said: "Georges St-Pierre is a great guy, great champion, great athlete – he's a very good example for young kids. I know he's retired but if he wants to come back, if he feels hungry, if he feels he can improve his legacy with a fight with me and he can make 155 [pounds], I'm waiting for him."

    Nurmagomedov ruled out an imminent change in division, though acknowledged a step up to welterweight could come in the future, while also expressing a desire to raise money with a charity fight in Africa.

    "If the UFC have a big, big fight, they can build an arena somewhere like Congo, Nigeria, Somalia or Sudan, whatever. Fight there, make money and do some charity stuff," he said.

    "Africa is in a very bad situation with a lot of people dying because they don't have drinking water. We can do this, let's go. If UFC support it, I'm going to support it too.

    "Maybe I can fight with Georges St-Pierre. Georges St-Pierre is a very big star. They can build an arena in three months and maybe in January, February or March we can fight in somewhere like Congo, why not?

    "And all the money we make we can use on charity, on Africa or somewhere. Maybe they can make $50 million, maybe 40m, even if they make 30m for one night and give all this money for people – I like this kind of stuff."

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    Nurmagomedov was fighting for the first time since serving a nine-month suspension for his actions after his victory over McGregor, with the duo having been involved in an ill-tempered build-up.

    The champion scaled the cage after his win and got into a fight with McGregor's training partner Dillon Danis which then incited a brawl that went from the stands and into the ring.

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