Right after laying a beatdown and submitting Michael Johnson at UFC 205, Khabib Nurmagomedov was unusually fired up. In his Octagon interview with Joe Rogan, the typically stoic “Eagle” riled up the entire Madison Square Garden crowd made up mostly of Irish fans and lambasted Conor McGregor’s title shot that night.
As it turns out, there was much more to the story. Now happily retired, Khabib recently appeared on Mike Tyson’s Hotboxin’ podcast and revealed he was initially offered the Eddie Alvarez title fight.
That night, I was very emotional because this fight have big history.
They send me contract fight versus Alvarez, fight for the title. First of all, they send me fight in Canada. I sign contract. Then, they send me fight with him in, I think, Madison Square Garden. I sign contract. And I was, ‘What’s going on? I don’t understand why this guy send me, like, two different contract.’
I sign contract then I see in media, like, Conor gonna fight with Alvarez. And I was, like, ‘Hey, I supposed to fight with him. I sign already contract.’
Khabib said he later realized the UFC’s underlying agenda. But that didn’t deter him from taking on all possible comers just to achieve his ultimate goal at the time.
I think they play game. They play game, and I send Dana message, ‘Hey, I understand everything. OK, if you guys give Conor this fight, I understand this guy’s big name.’ That time, I don’t have big name. ‘You just use my name to force them to sign contract. I understand everything. OK, just give me someone. I wanna fight same night.’
‘Just give me someone. You big organization, just find me someone.’ They say, ‘OK.’ It was, like, one month before the fight, they say, ‘You just be ready, we’re gonna find you (an opponent).’
Khabib didn’t get to fight for the title until a year and a half later. He went on to defend the belt three times before retiring with an undefeated 29-0 record last October.