Although Khabib Nurmagomedov has fought just twice in the past two years, the top-ranked lightweight contender wants a shot at the UFC title.
Nurmagomedov, who is currently undefeated at 23-0 and largely considered the best 155-pound contender on the roster, had been sidelined with injuries and considered retiring from the sport. The Dagestani fighter returned to the Octagon with a win over UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher at UFC on FOX: Teixeira vs. Evans, TKO'ing the American with ground-and-pound in the second round.
Nurmagomedov believes the win was enough to catapult him into title contention, claiming that he doesn't care who currently holds the lightweight belt.
"For me, it's nothing changed because I always have only one goal. This is that. [Edson] Barboza, Eddie, RDA, Tony [Ferguson], it doesn't matter. To me, it's no problem. I have to take my belt. I want to fight for the title," Nurmagomedov said on Monday's edition The MMA Hour, per MMA Fighting's Luke Thomas.
Eddie Alvarez, a former two-time Bellator world champion, seized the UFC lightweight crown when he blitzed Rafael dos Anjos in the first round earlier this month at UFC Fight Night 90. The win impressed scores of fans, but Nurmagomedov isn't too impressed with the newly minted champ.
"Now, Eddie is champion. For me, Eddie is [not] interesting," Nurmagomedov confessed. "For me, interesting is title fight. I have to to take this belt. That's why I want to fight now with Eddie, but to be honest with you, Eddie is not interesting for me. But now Eddie is champion. That's why I want to fight with him."
Alvarez recently criticised Nurmagomedov, claiming that 'The Eagle' has been too inactive and hasn't done enough to warrant a title shot. Instead, the Philadelphia-based fighter wants to defend the strap against the winner of Nate Diaz vs. McGregor II at UFC 202.
No. 3 ranked lightweight Tony Ferguson has also staked his claim for a shot at the title after winning eight consecutive fights and proving to be one of the most active contenders in the division.
Nurmagomedov, however, who considered the possibility of a rematch with Rafael dos Anjos, insists he should be next in line for a championship bout.
"Before when he fight with dos Anjos, dos Anjos was, not too much, but a little bit interesting because people talk about he change after my last fight with him. People talk about this, but I beat dos Anjos already," he said. "That's why dos Anjos not interesting for me, too, but now, Eddie's champion. Before when he fight with dos Anjos, Eddie's not interesting for me, too, but now he have belt.
"It doesn't matter who is champion," Nurmagomedov noted. "I want to take this belt."