Khabib Nurmagomedov says he had no issues making weight for his unification title bout against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, maintaining he is ready for “five rounds of war” come Saturday night.
The undefeated lightweight champion, whose professional record stands at 27-0, skipped the event’s official media day on Thursday, leading to concerns he was struggling to come in at 155 pounds ahead of Friday morning’s weigh-in. Nurmagomedov landed right on the button, although he did look incredibly relieved to have done so.
However, speaking to the media following Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in at The Arena - the newly constructed venue for UFC 242 - the Russian knocked back suggestions his weight was ever a concern.
“It was my best weight cut,” Nurmagomedov said. “I just focused on the weight cut because sometimes the media day takes too much energy. Because I need energy for training after media day and today morning I needed energy for training.
“Media day takes your energy like crazy. You guys don’t maybe understand this, but I know this feeling.”
With Saturday’s headline bout against interim champion Poirier officially on, attention turned to how Nurmagomedov would deal with the added pressure that comes with being viewed as the face of the event.
UFC 242 marks the first installment in a five-year partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and the promotion’s return to the capital following a five-year hiatus, while Nurmagomedov represents comfortably the main attraction this week.
At Friday’s weigh-in, he entered the stage to a cacophony of noise. On fight night, he will be joined by a large number of family and friends, including having his father in his corner for the first time in UFC.
Yet Nurmagomedov played down any additional tension, saying: “If you’re a fighter always you’re going to feel pressure. Of course, [Dustin] has pressure, I have pressure. It doesn’t matter - tomorrow, when the cage closes, I’m going to fight. Like I always do. This is the easiest part in the sport: go to the cage and fight. This is what I do all my life.
“What’s the difference between champions and just fighters? You can control your pressure, emotions. I can control this. I showed this many, many times. Right now, I have pressure, too. Look at these cameras. But it doesn’t matter: tomorrow when the cage closes, the pressure is finished. I’m going to just fight.”
Asked about the threat posed by Poirier (25-5-1) across the five-round, 25-minute clash, Nurmagomedov said: “Dustin is a tough guy; he has big experience. His last fight he showed he can fight five rounds, but I don’t know how he’s going to feel after my pressure.
“I’m focused on the fight, on five rounds. I can’t be thinking ‘Oh, second round or third round, I’m going to finish him’. I’m focused on five rounds of war.”