'We want to make it big': Khabib presents new team; says he's past Conor, aims for Ferguson fight
Rising UFC star, Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, says his possible bout with UFC #2 ranked lightweight Tony Ferguson is a “bigger” fight than with current division champion Conor McGregor.
On Thursday night, undefeated Nurmagomedov (24-0) presented his new MMA team, called 'Eagles MMA', in which he will be a president. The team, which aims to promote Russian MMA, comprises some of the best names in Russian mixed martial arts.
Besides Nurmagomedov himself, the team includes UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev, flyweight Ali Bagautinov, undefeated Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov, plus lesser-known fighters that compete in Russian MMA promotions.
“We have a new MMA team, called Eagles MMA. We want to make it big. Very big. Not only in Russia, but around the world,” explained Nurmagomedov, talking exclusively to RT Sport.
“We have four UFC fighters, we have four World Series of Fighting fighters, ten Fight Night (Russian MMA promotion) fighters. Big team with big guys. Vitaly Minakov, Islam Makhachev, Rasul Mirzaev, Ali Bagautinov, myself. And a lot of young, hungry guys. Young, tough guys. We have a big future. And I think we have a very good team.”
The team is named Eagles as a nod to Nurmagomedov’s ring name 'The Eagle', and because it is an important symbol of his native Dagestan.
As with previous public appearances of Khabib in Moscow, the presentation was marked with a huge presence of MMA fans and media.
“We want to promote sport. We want the younger generation to follow good examples. Whether it's sport or education – kids should stay in school and gyms, not on the streets,” said Nurmagomedov at the press conference.
“As for the team goals, we have to collect belts. In each promotion, we have our fighters competing, including UFC. That would be the best answer to what we made this team for.”
After the event, Nurmagomedov told RT Sport about his plans and his next potential fight in UFC.
RT: Which fight do you think is next for you in UFC? Conor McGregor said that he is taking a break before the summer. And as you said, you only want to fight for the belt, which Conor holds at the moment.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: I feel very bad about this because before this year, I had two years' rest because I was injured all that time. Now I don’t want to wait for this guy. If Conor doesn’t want to fight before May or June, then I want to take another fight. I want to fight for the interim belt with Tony Ferguson.
RT: You had a fight with Tony Ferguson scheduled this April, but it was eventually called off. How would you feel going for it again?
KN: Last time he was injured; he pulled out, not me. He pulled out. He didn’t come April 16 to the fight. And before that I had an injury. But now – why not? And now, I think UFC wants to make this fight. I feel this. And for me, the perfect date is in March. Not earlier – only in March. And Tony Ferguson is a tough guy. Tough opponent. Nine wins streak. Why not? I think this is a real high-level lightweight fight. Not Conor versus me. I think this is a real high-level fight. Let’s go. Keep fighting. Keep going.
RT: When do you plan to start your preparation for the next fight?
KN: Tomorrow, I am beginning my training. I want to come back to the gym, stop media, stop traveling, and focus on my training, improve myself and come back in March.
RT: It seems like mind games are a part of the fight show today in MMA. Do you feel confident in that segment of the game?
KN: About mind games – I think I am ready for everything, you know? I am from Dagestan. Dagestan is on a different level of living. Tough life. People living in the mountains. And I am ready for everything.
RT: Do think that fighters from your native Dagestan are the baddest on the planet?
KN: I don’t know. I don’t think I am a bad guy from Dagestan. I think I am a good guy from Dagestan. But for my opponents, for sure – I am a bad guy. Because when I go to the cage, all the time I smash my opponents. That’s why I don’t think for my opponents I am a good guy. But for the young generation, for an example, I think I am a good guy.