HEYDORN’S TAKE: Khabib Nurmagomedov is living in a fantasy world

BY ZACK HEYDORN, MMATorch Contributor

Khabib Nurmagomedov (photo credit Adam Hunger © USA Today Sports)

Fighters sometimes live in a very clever alternate reality don’t they? We’ve been treated to a couple great examples this week alone. First, Mark Hunt acknowledged in great detail how physically and mentally unfit he is, but then denounces the UFC for removing him from a fight. Can you say hypocrite? Hunt can now. Second, Khabib Nurmagomedov was on top of his house of cards detailing the rest of 2017 for himself and others in the lightweight division. Keep in mind; he hasn’t fought at all this year. Nurmagomedov can say hypocrite now too. These alternate (and fake) realities are common place amongst athletes, but especially fighters. To an extent, I get it and accept it if the alternate reality is occasionally backed up by results. That’s what makes Nurmagomedov’s fight vision this week so shockingly laughable and outrageous. In what world does Khabib think he gets to dictate anything surrounding main event level fights in the UFC? Khabib’s fantasy world I suppose? That world doesn’t exist, and won’t for a long time.

Monday on the MMA Hour, Nurmagomedov said that there was an 80 percent chance that he’d be ready for UFC 219 on December 30th in Las Vegas. He then drew up his own fantasy booking scenario for the year by saying on the show.

“We have almost 12 weeks, 11 weeks before UFC 219 and now is the beginning a very interesting moment in my life. I hope UFC gives me a championship fight. End of the year, I want to take everything back. Attention, belts; I want to take everything. End of the year, I want to fix everything. And we’ll see what happens. But first of all, I think UFC has to make the fight, Conor versus Nate Diaz 3, and after, me and Tony.”

He continued with, “Because, my opinion, I think Tony Ferguson is the real champion. That’s why. I don’t think, if I fight versus Tony Ferguson, this is an interim belt. Officially, yes. But people want to see me versus Tony Ferguson. I think this is a much better fight, for everything. If I beat Tony Ferguson and take the interim championship belt — Conor’s the official champion, but he’s not the people’s champion.”

If all of that wasn’t ridiculous enough, he concluded with “My opinion, I have to fight with Tony. All of my fans, everybody wants this fight.”

That is a ton to digest because there is so much wrong with it all. First of all, Khabib isn’t dictating anything in the UFC these days. He lost that privilege outright when he pulled out of his UFC 209 main event fight against Tony Ferguson. Second of all, while Nurmagomedov appears to have his future mapped out, it’s rooted in nothing real or factual and he contradicts himself at every turn. Let’s dive in…

(1) It’s clear that Nurmagomedov is angling for a spot on the last card of 2017 at UFC 219. In his quote though, he outright states that he is only 80 percent sure he can make the fight. Khabib not making fights for various reasons is exactly why he is in the position of having to politic his way onto cards to begin with. He wants to compound that reputation by working to get on a card in which he only has an 80 percent chance to make? Wake up and smell the coffee Mr. Nurmagomedov. This is the epitome of stupid.

(2) Khabib simply just doesn’t deserve a championship fight at this juncture. He’s pulled out three times against the now interim champion, Tony Ferguson. From a business perspective, the UFC can’t afford to risk blowing up a surefire main event because Khabib is forced to pull out once again. With him, history has repeated itself and Khabib will need to prove otherwise before he is thrusted into the main event spotlight once more.

(3) Khabib is wrong about Conor McGregor and the Lightweight World Championship. He’s working to create confusion and drama when it’s so obvious that there isn’t any. McGregor is the true title holder and Ferguson holds the interim belt. That’s pretty easy to follow and nobody disputes that hierarchy in the division. Khabib calls Ferguson the champion because at this stage of the game, that is the biggest money fight he has. McGregor is off the table for him because of his inconsistency in premiere spots on cards. Nurmagomedov makes a valiant play here to portray his potential next fight as the biggest in the division. He looks silly doing so though. McGregor is the biggest fight in the business and everyone accepts that. With these words, Khabib is highlighting his lack of understanding of easy UFC business metrics.

(4) “My opinion, I have to fight with Tony. “All of my fans, everybody wants this fight.” This is the most hypocritical statement of them all. Everyone does want to see this fight. Everyone did at one point anyway. Because of Khabib and Khabib alone, we haven’t seen it. Yet, he’s acting as if he’s been pining for this fight for years only to be denied. This would undoubtedly be a great fight. Just don’t pretend to desperately call for it when it was you who ruined the possibility of it happening on three separate occasions.

Talk only can get you so far in the fight game. Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, and Michael Bisping all can talk well, but they’ve proven they can back it up in many ways when it counts. Khabib Nurmagomedov is talking like a superstar, but you can only talk like a superstar for so long. Eventually, you have to act like one and Khabib has yet to do that. He is one of the most talented fighters in the world, but has yet to deliver when put in superstar slots on cards. Until he does, saying anything other than “yes” to proposed fights is nothing more than him living in a fantasy world.

NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: Time for UFC to lead and add weight divisions to protect fighters

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