‘This is biggest fight of my career' - Khabib Nurmagomedov to RT SPORT (VIDEO)
The bout between two highest-ranked fighters in the lightweight division is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 4 as the co-main event of the night headlined by the welterweight rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson.
Nurmagomedov, who came to California in January to have his final training camp before the fight, is now visiting the Brooklyn to accompany his fellow Dagestani fighter Islam Makhachev for his prelims bout at UFC 208.
On Friday, Nurmagomedov, a native of the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, visited Brighton Beach, Brooklyn - famously a hotbed of immigration from Russia and other former Soviet countries - to hold a Q&A session for his supporters and the media.
Following the event, Khabib spoke to RT Sport's correspondent, sharing his emotions about his fight for the interim lightweight belt with Ferguson.
“This is the biggest fight in my career,” Nurmagomedov told RT Sport.
“One of the biggest fights in UFC’s lightweight history, I think. I’m fighting for the title and I am very excited about this fight. This is my dream to become UFC’s undisputed, undefeated champion. And I will do this, Inshallah (if God wills), on March 4.”
RT: What will be your fight plan?
Khabib Nurmagomedov: Tony Ferguson is a tough opponent. This is true. That's why he fights for the title, you know. And my plan is to make him tired, a little bit talk with him. Make him tap. Finish this fight. Take this belt. Make history and go home. This is my game plan.
RT: Coming into this fight, Ferguson said he wanted an equal purse to you from UFC. You yourself even offered to pay him extra just to make the fight happen. Now the fight is happening but Ferguson says he is still not happy with the money. Will you still want to pay him extra if you win?
KN: No. I asked him - if you want I can pay you. But he said ‘No, no, no. UFC have to pay me.’ This is his decision. But now we have a fight. Now we cannot think about money or other things. Because (on) March 4 the cage (will) close, and we have to stay ready for this fight. And this is what I’m gonna do.
RT: You and Ferguson have said a lot of things to each other via press and social media. Do you still feel that tension between you two? Or is this just another fight?
KN: Between me and him, I don’t think we have something. For me it’s just another opponent, just another fight. Nothing personal. Of course I don’t like him little bit, because he talks too much. But for me this is just another fight.
RT: You are 24 and 0 in professional MMA, 8-0 inside the UFC Octagon. How do you feel towards UFC, keeping in mind that they made your fight with Ferguson for the interim title, not the actual championship belt?
KN: I feel OK. I never think about my record. When I go to the cage all the time it’s my new fight. And I don’t think too much about the interim belt, because people know this is real high level fight in UFC’s lightweight (division). And who wins this fight becomes the real champ.
RT: You want to become lightweight champion. If you win the interim belt, what will be your next step? Do you think UFC will give you a fight with (UFC lightweight champion) Conor McGregor?
KN: I don’t think about this. I have a fight (on) March 4 with a tough opponent. And I only think about Tony Ferguson. And about the belt too (smiles).