The UFC returns to Abu Dhabi once again on the 7th of September where Khabib Nurmagomedov will face Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier in an attempt to defend his belt.
Many Fans may still be wondering how exactly we got to this point. In this article, we will breakdown the story of this fight.
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Path To The Fight.
The Eagle will be making his highly anticipated return at UFC 242 after an 11-month layoff. This being due to a suspension that was placed upon him by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his role in the brawl following his dominant victory over Conor McGregor.
Khabib’s popularity has no doubt skyrocketed since becoming the lightweight champion with his Instagram following being boosted significantly as well as acquiring the title of “most successful Russian athlete”.
This rise in popularity came after his very public and heated rivalry with Conor McGregor which has been active since 2016.
The pairs first heated encounter occurred backstage at the UFC 205 weigh-ins. Just before Conor McGregor was to go on stage to weigh in and face off against Eddie Alvarez, Khabib walked by and the two exchanged a few harsh words before security swarmed the area and broke the altercation up.
From this point, things only escalated, with Khabib Calling Conor Out after his brutal beat down of Michael Johnson.
This Conor fight would not materialise for Khabib until October of 2018. Due in part to the fact, Conor moved over to boxing in order to create the biggest fight in sporting history against Floyd Mayweather.
The UFC eventually decided to move on from McGregor and stripped him of the title. It was announced that Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson were scheduled to fight at UFC 223, with the winner being crowned the lightweight champion. However, the fight ended up being cancelled after Tony Ferguson suffered a serious knee injury in a freak accident – causing this to be the fourth time the fight had been cancelled.
In Lieu of an opponent, it seemed that Khabib Would not get his long-awaited title shot. This would change however when the featherweight Champion – Max Holloway stepped up to the challenge, offering to fight Khabib.
During this change of opponents, another situation arose for Khabib. Artem Lobov a teammate of Conor McGregor, insulted Khabib in an interview with a Russian outlet. This led to Khabib confronting Artem in a hotel during UFC 223 fight week with several of his teammates surrounding Artem making him suffer a great deal of embarrassment for the comments he made against Khabib.
This Outraged Conor Mcgregor and provoked him to fly out from Ireland with a whole group of his friends. They then proceeded to storm the Barclays arena and attack the bus on which Khabib and his team were leaving the venue.
Video shot from inside the bus shows McGregor picking up a steel dolly and throwing it through the bus window. This caused Michael Chiesa and a couple of other fighters, who were scheduled to fight on the card, to be injured and ultimately rendered unable to compete.
Charges were pressed against McGregor who handed himself in to the NYPD. He was charged with three misdemeanour assaults and a felony charge for criminal mischief for the damage done to the bus.
Khabib was also facing some problems, with his opponent Max Holloway being deemed medically unfit to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission. It seemed that the title shot Khabib had so eagerly waited for was once again just out of his grasp.
When all hope seemed lost Al Iaquinta, who at that point was a relatively unknown fighter, stepped in to face Khabib Nurmagomedov on less than a day’s notice. “You get the opportunity, you seize the moment,” said Iaquinta, who was supposed to face Paul Felder.
The Title Fight
With Max’s replacement having been confirmed the bout for the belt was a go.
Al Iaquinta’s performance exceeded many people’s expectations. He successfully did what many doubted he would be able to do, which was keeping the fight standing. Very cunningly Iaquinta lured Khabib into a stand-up fight thus preventing most of the vicious mauling that many of Khabib’s opponents experience.
Khabib, however, was quick to get back on track and followed the game plan that earned him his flawless record, mauling his opponent.
Nurmagomedov began playing to his strengths and after unloading a barrage of punches onto Iaquinta in the fifth round he sealed the deal by taking him down to the mat and ended the fight in a dominant position.
With the belt strapped around his waist, Khabib finally achieved his goal of becoming a UFC champion. His next objective became to defend his belt and build his esteemed legacy.
It was no surprise that Khabib’s next fight would be against his rival Conor McGregor. McGregor utilised the pair’s very personal feud to promote the fight and create hype around the event.
This may have backfired as Khabib entered the fight seeking to teach Conor a lesson for all the insults that he fired towards him during the build-up of the fight. After 4 rounds of progressively tiring McGregor out, Khabib forced him to tap from a taut neck crank.
Even after successfully defending his belt and defeating his biggest rival to date The Eagle was still furious and leapt out of the octagon.
A brawl ensued within and out of the cage with several members of each team getting involved. Security moved in quickly and restrained the participants of the brawl before anyone was seriously injured. Khabib was heavily reprimanded by the states athletic commission and received a hefty fine as well as a long suspension.
The Interim Title
In Khabib’s absence, the UFC decided to keep things rolling with the lightweight division and created an interim belt. The interim champion served as a placeholder for the real champion and would be the first in line to fight for the real belt once the champion was back in action.
The fight for the interim title went down at UFC 236 in Atlanta, between The featherweight champion Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier.
While many expected Max holloway to have the Interim belt by the end of the fight, the opposite happened. Poirier put up a serious fight against one of the best strikers in the UFC and after five rounds of out landing Max, Dustin secured the fight via Decision.
Undoubtedly Poirier is a quality matchup who will offer heavy resistance against the inevitable takedowns that will be attempted by Khabib.
Will he be able to become the first to defeat The Mighty Khabib Nurmagomedov? Or will he join the long list of all those that have tried but ultimately failed?. These questions are bound to be answered when the pair go head to head on September 7th.