‘Respect for him stops when I enter the octagon’: Khabib focused on Poirier ahead of UFC 242 UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has said the respect for his UFC 242 opponent, interim title holder Dustin Poirier, will go out the window in when the two meet in their unification fight in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
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The ‘Dagestan Eagle’ defends his title against Poirer, who won the interim lightweight belt with a unanimous decision win against Max Holloway in April, at The Arena on YAS Island. Khabib has already long begun a period of acclimatization, arriving some 20 days before the fight.
, the 30-year-old fighter said that striving to make the 155lbs weight division limit may have contributed to the two showing a little more aggression towards each other as the fight approaches.
The two nevertheless shook hands and shared a hug at the weigh in on Thursday, but Khabib conceded that although he has “nothing but respect” for his American counterpart, the time for battle is in the Octagon.
“I think that the weight cut has an effect on your mind a little bit. You become hyper-sensitive, more irritable,” Khabib said.
“But generally I only have respect for him. That will stop as soon as I enter the octagon. That’s where we’ll have to fight. So there’ll be no brother, father, friend, or anything. If you get into the octagon and you see your opponent, then that’s it. You have to compete.”
The fight will be shown live on Russia’s Perviy Kanal (Channel One), a first for the station. While Khabib admits this serves as a “huge step” for MMA in the country, he does have “mixed feelings” that his recognizability in Russia could swell further as a result.
“Of course I’m happy. If I’m not mistaken, it will be the first time Perviy Kanal will show an MMA fight live. On the one hand, of course there’ll be a lot of attention on me and I’m glad about that, but on the other hand I understand that even more people will begin to recognise me,” Khabib, who already enjoys superstar status in his home country, said.
“It will be even more difficult in the streets. So I have mixed feelings about it. But it’s a really big step for MMA in our country as a whole.”
It had been rumored that Conor McGregor, whom Khabib dismantled in four rounds last October to defend his title, would arrive in the Middle East for the fight, his potential presence expected to have caused ructions ringside.
“I’m fully focussed on my opponent. I don’t think about anyone else or who’s going to be there and who isn’t. I’m preparing for my fight with Dustin Poirier on September 7,” Khabib said in his typically laconic style.
Khabib, who trains at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) also says he is “physically and mentality” ready for the responsibility of carrying the torch for the camp after recent defeats of AKA stalwarts Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier.
As it turned out, McGregor will not travel to Abu Dhabi. But there will be one notable presence at the fight: Khabib’s father and trainer Abdulmanap has traveled with the team. Nurmagomedov Sr had been previously denied a visa for his son’s biggest fights in the United States.