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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

With thousands behind him in Abu Dhabi, Khabib Nurmagomedov proves he is cut above the rest at UFC 242

The crowd in Abu Dhabi was vociferous as they chanted Khabib’s name in full volume. And with the bright lights on him, Khabib shined even brighter.

other-sports Updated: Sep 08, 2019 14:38 IST
Yash Bhati
Yash Bhati
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Khabib Nurmagomedov locks in a rear naker choke on Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.
Khabib Nurmagomedov locks in a rear naker choke on Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.(AP)
         

This was only supposed to be his third title fight. He has been fighting since he was a kid and most of us have now seen him wrestling with a bear in a video. However, it was Khabib Nurmagomedov’s second title fight against Conor McGregor that catapulted his stardom and made him one of the most watched athletes in the world. The UFC decided to cash in on his superstardom and his following in the muslim community. They finalized his return to the Octagon for September and placed him in the main event of their first Middle East show.

The crowd in Abu Dhabi was vociferous as they chanted Khabib’s name in full volume. And with the bright lights on him, Khabib shined even brighter. He had the support of thousands of supporters in Yas Island and he put in a performance for the ages as he mauled Dustin Poirier in three rounds to retain his UFC Lightweight Championship.

READ | Khabib Nurmagomedov in wrestling match with ‘old friend’ bear ahead of UFC 242 - WATCH

Khabib even improved his record to 28-0 as his undefeated streak in MMA continues after his win over Poirier. Over the course of three rounds, Khabib only looked in trouble twice. Once at the start of second round, Poirier was landing some punches as Khabib tried to evade. Then just before the finish, Poirier locked in a guillotine which was also masterfully negated by the Dagestani.

Those two were the only moments that Poirier looked like a threat as Khabib dominated him with his exceptional wrestling throughout the fight. Then came the inevitable. After draining out Poirier in the third round, Khabib secured a rear naked choke to finish the fight at 2:06 into the third round. This cemented his status as one of the pound for pound best as the crowd looked in awe of his performance.

Even Khabib admitted that he is feeling the pressure of carrying the burden of expectations of a whole community on his shoulders. When asked about his potential fight with Tony Ferguson, Khabib asked for a couple of days off before deciding his next move.

“The last two years was very busy for me, I want to relax a little bit, I have a bit too much pressure on my shoulders,” he said. “Give me a little bit of time, a couple of days.”

There was even a small jab at his rival McGregor where he commented that MMA is about respect not trash talking.

“Last fight with bulls—t guy, we had a lot of crazy stuff. We show really what is this MMA. MMA, No. 1 thing is respect,” Nurmagomedov said following his second straight title defence. “MMA is not about trash talking. This is what we show with Dustin Poirier and his great team.”

Now it looks like we could have Khabib back in the Octagon sooner rather than later and the fans have already started dreaming about a lethal match between the Eagle and El Cucuy.

First Published: Sep 08, 2019 14:37 IST

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