Image source: Khabib Nurmagomedov Instagram (@khabib_nurmagomedov)
Speaking to TMZ Sports, Khabib admitted that Ferguson is the toughest test of his career to date and is a level above the other fighters he has faced in the octagon.
“I think, just my opinion, my last couple of years, I compete with guys like Barboza, dos Anjos, Conor, Poirier, Iaquinta, all of these guys not tough like Tony Ferguson. That’s why now I feel I have real motivation because before when I watched all these opponents I think like, ‘Okay, I can beat this guy.’ Of course, I work hard, but right now it’s a very, very tough opponent.
That’s why we focus like always, but right now we have more focus, more hard work. Tony is not like these guys. He’s a little bit tougher than all of them.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for Conor McGregor’s name to be mentioned in the interview with Khabib. Firstly, the Russian lightweight gave his thoughts on McGregor’s return to action against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 and wasn’t impressed with the choice of opponent.
“Cowboy always lose all his main event fights. Always. I don’t remember when he wins. The last 10 fights, I think he lose six or seven times. He’s not high-level lightweight or welterweight right now. He’s not. Of course, he has a big name, but his time is finished.
Conor picked a very good opponent. Now, he come back and beat Cowboy, who lose last 7 of last 10 times and then they talk about, ‘Okay, this guy’s come back.’ No, he has to fight with really tough opponents like Justin Gaethje or something like this. He has to come back to lightweight division; he has to cut weight. This is just my opinion.”
Not only does Nurmagomedov think McGregor is dodging Justin Gaethje but he believes “The Notorious” is dodging all of the tough fights in the division.
“I think he’s just ducking the tough matchups, not only Justin Gaethje. He just chooses ‘Oh who’s going to be my next fight, I need an easy fight’. Of course, he can because he’s a big star but anyways let’s talk about me, let’s talk about my next fight.”
However, Khabib can’t get away from the McGregor conversion as per usual and says the only reason fans want to see the bout is because of the drama caused in the first one. Khabib acknowledges the fight is a big revenue stream and is great for drama but says the bout is not so great for his legacy of beating the best fighters the UFC can offer.
“I think people want to see us continue what happened last time. They just want to see drama. If you ask people, ‘Guys, what do you think, who’s gonna win?’ 99 percent are going to say ‘Khabib, like he did first time.’ Just people want to see a big drama show, only for this one.
If we talk about money, this is good. If we talk about drama, this is good. If we talk about real lightweight contender or real lightweight championship fight, this is not good. This is not real lightweight championship fight. But if we talk about drama and money, of course this is good. But I come here for show, to make my legacy. For my legacy, I have to beat tough opponents like Dustin Poirier, like Iaquinta, like other guys. Right now, it’s Tony Ferguson. I have to beat all of them, like real contenders, not fake contenders.”