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Khabib expected McGregor to be ‘mentally tougher’ at UFC 229

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Khabib Nurmagomedov expected a better fight from Conor McGregor at UFC 229.

The bad blood between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor remains at an all-time high. Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

After months of trash talk and pre-fight buildup, Khabib Nurmagomedov expected a tougher fight from Conor McGregor in their now-historic lightweight title bout at UFC 229.

Khabib submitted McGregor with a neck crank in the fourth round to retain his lightweight title and, at one point in the fight, ‘The Eagle’ started hurling insults at ‘The Notorious’ from top position. “Let’s talk now!” Nurmagomedov yelled while raining down punches on McGregor.

“It’s only business,” McGregor replied at the end of the second round.

It’s that line, Khabib says, that caught him by surprise. Nurmagomedov knew at that point that McGregor was mentally broken but he expected more perseverance from the SBG Ireland product on fight night.

“Conor’s trash talk? Yes, he had talked for a while (during the fight), but when I started pushing him, he immediately switched to the ‘It’s just business’ mode,” Khabib said at a press conference in Moscow (h/t Clyde Aidoo of MMA News). “I was even a bit disappointed. I expected him to be mentally tougher.

“When I was ground-and-pounding him, talking to him, and he responded that it was just business, it looked like he was trying to calm me down to avoid a real beating, just like a son trying to justify himself in front of his angry father. Psychology is a very strong tool.”

Khabib has since retired with another two title defenses under his belt while McGregor is expected to return to the octagon to take on Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 main event on Jan. 23.