Top ranked UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov knows he has something to prove at UFC 219. No, not that he’s among the elite of the lightweight division. His competitive track record has been fairly well established. Rather, that he can safely get to the lightweight limit and keep taking fights there.
For a fighter who has only missed weight once in his five years with the promotion – against Abel Trujillo back at UFC 160 in 2013 – Nurmagomedov’s struggles getting to 155 are well known. Most notably, coming to light ahead of a planned UFC 209 bout against Tony Ferguson, when the ‘Eagle’ had to be hospitalized due to complications from his weight cut. And because of that, the Dagestani knows there’s a lot of pressure for him to not only make weight, but to perform well afterward against Edson Barboza.
“Yeah, I feel this. I agree with fans, I agree with the UFC, because I'm professional,” Nurmagomedov told Ariel Helwani prior to making weight for UFC 219. “I have to make weight. And after I have to show very good performance. This fight is a real contender fight. He's top five, I'm top five, and after this fight I'm going to fight for the title, when I beat him. This year I want to finish, and new year I want to come like number one contender.”
“Yeah, yeah. I talk with the UFC,” Nurmagomedov continued, revealing that he should be in line for a title shot with a win. “I talk with Dana. Dana told me, ‘You have to make weight, beat this guy, if you want to fight for the title.’ And I agree with him.”
As for making lightweight this time around, Nurmagomedov hit 155.5 on Friday morning. And he said that while the cut wasn’t necessarily easy, it was definitely easier than it has been before.
“Yeah, I think this is much different,” Khabib conceded. “Because now I am healthy, this is number one. Because before, I feel sick, I feel bad, inside. Now I feel perfect. After last situation, I make surgery, I make move to Germany, make rehab – a couple months, like 3-4 months. September I begging to come back, and last four months I train hard for this fight.
“And we're here, like, two days before fight and I can't believe. When I'm beginning this in September, I think it's going to be very hard – the weight. It was really really hard weight, but everything go fast. Now, two days before fight, tomorrow morning when I show weight, and Saturday night, I'm going to show how Eagle is hungry. I have to catch somebody inside the cage, this is very important. Eagle have to eat.”
Perhaps it’s that smoother weight cut that has Khabib considering dropping a weight class. A fighter many fans and pundits have theorized should be fighting at welterweight may end up trying for 145 in the not-too-distant future. It’s a plan that’s already raising eyebrows.
“No, I'm not joking,” Khabib assured, when asked if he was actually considering a drop to featherweight. “I am serious about this. But first of all, I have two fights at lightweight: Edson and Tony. I want to finish this business, and afterward I think, with my team, what we're going to do. But I am already thinking about this.”
UFC 219 takes place on December 30th, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The event is expected to be headlined by a woman’s featherweight title fight between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza is planned as the co-main event.