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3 Sep, 2019 12:23

Chasing ‘superfights’ is not the key to legacy, Khabib says ahead of UFC 242 showdown with Poirier

Chasing ‘superfights’ is not the key to legacy, Khabib says ahead of UFC 242 showdown with Poirier

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov says the mark of a true champion is taking on all challengers in your weight class rather than casting glances at potentially-lucrative superfights in different divisions.

Nurmagomedov takes on the division's top contender, interim 155lb champion Dustin Poirier, this weekend in the UFC 242 headliner in Abu Dhabi and should the undefeated grappler remain unbeaten following that test, he says he will be waiting for the next man up in the UFC's talent-rich lightweight frame.

Several of Nurmagomedov's peers have openly flirted with the prospect of taking on box office blockbuster matches in alternate weight classes as the idea of the 'superfight' has become increasingly in vogue in recent years on the mixed martial arts landscape.

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Conor McGregor, Max Holloway, Daniel Cormier and, most recently, Henry Cejudo have all tested the waters outside of their primary division with varying degrees of success, but despite openly campaigning for a bout with UFC legend Georges St-Pierre in recent months, Nurmagomedov instead says that his focus is on the 155lb category alone.

"I think if you want to improve your legacy by changing weight classes, I don’t think this is help for you,” Nurmagomedov said in a recent media call to promote this weekend's card. "Only one thing helps for you. You have to beat up-and-comers. What about when you beat tough opponents and you’re still undefeated more than the others. I think this is going to improve your legacy."

The Russian champion boasts the most impressive record currently in top level MMA (27-0) and says that it is the zero losses listed on his career ledger which is more impressive than a second world title in another division.

"If you lose couple times and you win one title, second title, you lose again, and then you win third title, this does not make you great,” Nurmagomedov said. "My opinion, when you’re undefeated long time and you never lose, this is when it’s real thing.

"When you go to the cage and again, again, again, you win, win, win, win, that helps to talk about 'this guy is tough'. I don't focus on welterweight or featherweight, my focus is the lightweight division."

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A win for Nurmagomedov on Saturday in Abu Dhabi will open the door to the next wave of lightweight contenders, with Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Justin Gaethje all waiting in the wings - and the champion says that his rivals will know exactly where to find him if they are deemed to be the next in line.

"I'm a real lightweight and my fights are going to be in the lightweight division," he said. "I don’t want to change any weight classes. I want to focus on my weight division."