As is usually the case with someone regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game.
That’s just fine with Dustin Poirier, who expects a closely contested fight against the undefeated Dagestani champion. “The Diamond” believes his own skill set will eventually take Nurmagomedov to an uncomfortable place when they meet in the UFC 242 headliner.
“A lot of people have been asking me about where do I see weaknesses in his game or where do I think he makes mistakes,” Poirier said at a pre-fight press conference to promote the Sept. 7 event in Abu Dhabi. “But I’ve kind of been sitting back, talking to my coaches about this, but I don’t really need him to be weak for me to be strong.
“I don’t need huge, glaring holes — I’m going to create them with my pressure, my fight IQ, my experience and the amount of rounds and years I’ve been doing this,” Poirier continued. “He’s good and I can’t sit up here and say anything bad about the guy,” he said. “But I’m going to make things happen in there and bring him to places that he’s never been in there.”
Poirier enters the matchup on a four-fight winning streak that includes finishes of Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. The American Top Team then claimed the interim title with an impressive five-round verdict against reigning featherweight king Max Holloway at UFC 236.
Nurmagomedov, while known for his suffocating grappling, is confident he can hold his own against the standup arsenal of Poirier. He points to his own resume, which includes victories over some talented strikers — a couple who own victories against his UFC 242 opponent.
“I [have tested] myself [against] the best strikers in the world — Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson, Conor [McGregor]. They’re all very good strikers; I think half of them already finished Dustin,” Nurmagomedov said. “They’re really good fighters, I think? I’ve already tested myself against a lot of really good strikers and Dustin is one of them.
“Of course I’m going to stand up too — this is not a wrestling match or grappling match; this is MMA — but my boxing is good too. I respect his game, I respect his boxing, but Sept. 7, I have to do my job, like always.”