UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov cancels Yas Mall open workout, but still gives fans plenty to cheer about

The popular Russian conducted an impromptu Q&A session with his fans ahead of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi

Khabib Nurmagomedov could not display his considerable skillset on Wednesday at the open workouts ahead of UFC 242 this weekend, but the hugely popular fighter still departed Yas Mall with reputation enhanced.

The undefeated Russian, the current lightweight champion, was comfortably the main attraction in front of a large and fervent crowd, as he prepares for Saturday’s unification bout with interim title-holder Dustin Poirier.

Unable to work out because he was training later that evening in an attempt to cut weight before Friday's weigh-in, Nurmagomedov apologised and then conducted an impromptu Q&A session with his fans. Upon its conclusion, he threw out signed T-shirts before signing off to rapturous applause.

“I’m not here to train, I just want to talk to you guys,” said Nurmagomedov to significant cheers. “Whoever gives me the best question I’m going to give a gift.”

On Saturday, Nurmagomedov will put his 27-0 record on the line against Poirier in the headline bout at The Arena, the newly constructed, 13,000-plus venue on Yas Island. The event, the first UFC fight night in Abu Dhabi since 2014 and third overall, is a sellout.

Asked if he would dance on Saturday should he notch a 28th professional victory, Nurmagomedov joked: “My father told me ‘If you don’t know how to dance, please don’t dance’. This is not my style. When I go to the cage, when the referee says ‘Let’s go’, I’m going to dance with my opponent.”

However, he did stop short at predicting in which round he would defeat Poirier, saying: “This is a hard question. Dustin Poirier is a very tough opponent; I don’t want to underestimate him. He has big experience, almost 20 fights in UFC.

“But when I go to the cage my plan is to make him tired and make him tap. This is my wish.”

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UFC fighters take part in open workout at Yas Mall

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Poirer, meanwhile, had taken to the stage earlier on Wednesday to a smattering of boos, but the American quickly hit his stride, mimicking to the crowd that he’s there for one thing only: to take Nurmagomedov’s belt.

“It’s an honour to be here,” Poirier said following a session of predominantly pad work. “I’m just appreciative and grateful to have this opportunity to be in this place and I’m trying to make history this Saturday night.

“It’s all about Saturday; I’m in the moment for sure. But after I stop Khabib it’ll settle in more. I’ve tunnel vision right now.”

As was noted on stage, Poirier has had to work hard for his title fight. The Louisiana native, 30, had 30 professional fights before facing Max Holloway in April for the interim belt. He saw off his compatriot by unanimous decision, lifting his unbeaten streak to six fights - four consecutive victories - and setting up Saturday’s showdown with Nurmagomedov.

And having experienced five defeats thus far in his career, Poirier believes that makes him an even more dangerous opponent against his unbeaten rival.

“I’ve had lessons and losses in picking myself off the ground that you don’t get when undefeated,” he said. “Being undefeated is incredible: it’s hard to do, especially against the competition he’s faced. But I’ve learnt lessons through trial, through error, through triumph, that he’s never learned yet.

“There’s something about picking yourself off the ground time and time again and still chasing your dreams. I just can’t be broken. I will not be broken.

"I’m here to make history - I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. Saturday night, I’m going out there to do something that’s never been done. And I’m honouring it and respecting it.”

On being considered by many as the heavy underdog, Poirier added: “I’ve had naysayers my whole life and overcome the odds. But I have a solid team around me; I feel good.

"Like I said, I’m in the moment and appreciative of this opportunity. I will not let it slip through my fingers. I will take full advantage of this, capitalise, and be the undisputed world champion.”

Updated: September 5, 2019 06:14 PM

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