Khabib Nurmagomedov put on one of the best performances of 2017 by systematically crushing the dangerous Edson Barboza for 15 minutes at UFC 219. The first minute looked like Barboza was going to do his thing by chopping at Khabib’s leg with some heavy kicks, but Khabib walked forward, upright like an angry bear, then took him down and beat on him with a chilling confidence. Khabib knew what he wanted to do, did it, and along the way, he reminded the world why he’s one of the best in the UFC.
“That was my most dominant performance to date,” he said to Joe Rogan following is thrashing of Barboza. “I am 25-0 and that is the real belt. Conor and Tony are nothing. It does not matter to me which one I get next. If the UFC will allow me, I will fight them both in the same night. I want the title fight in April.”
Lightweight champ Conor McGregor and interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson are brilliant fighters, we know this. But both men come out of their fights bloodied and in Conor’s case, sometimes on crutches. They go through battles, while Khabib Nurmagomedov grinds you into a sausage then eats you. To Khabib, a man is just protein, and he’s hungry.
Of course, to Khabib’s statement, Ferguson released one of his typically dense tweets saying he’ll fight the Dagestani (a match that’s already fallen apart at the eleventh hour twice over the years), then move to welterweight while Conor spends his money. That would be a great fight. I’d watch the hell out of it. But at this point, something more official needs to shake out. Khabib and Tony deserve to fight for a non-interim title, or they deserve a McGregor payday after being on top of the lightweight division for years while McGregor has taken over the world and division with a single victory at 155. McGregor has also held four belts in his career, never defending a single one.