Khabib Nurmagomedov offered Islam Makhachev guidance from outside the octagon as the man tipped as his successor earned a late submission win over Thiago Moises – leading to calls for him to brutalize former champ Conor McGregor.
Former lightweight king Nurmagomedov could be seen providing guidance on how to implement his ‘father’s plan’ – the masterplan previously overseen by his late father, revered coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov – as Russian Makhachev continued his long winning streak in the division once dominated by the Dagestani.
Brazilian Moises scored a takedown that Makhachev swiftly escaped from, and the 29-year-old, who has now won nine of his ten fights since first appearing in the UFC more than five years ago, secured a rear naked choke finish late in the fourth round to further enhance his title credentials.
“A hard training camp is behind me,” said Makhachev afterwards, admitting to “many minor injuries.” “I am satisfied, I spent more than three rounds in the octagon.
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“It’s a good experience with a good opponent. I was not nervous; I was really looking forward to this fight. I constantly wanted to get into the arena.
“Being a participant in the main event of the evening means attracting more attention to yourself, communicating more with the press. I have to be ready for this.
“I am a little upset that Moises managed to get a takedown. I didn’t think he would do that. But I gave him my legs myself. I tried to defend myself, but he caught me.
“I immediately tried to strangle him but he got out – he is good at jiu-jitsu. When a takedown was taken against me, I was a little upset. All my wrestling friends were also upset.
“After that, did Khabib [provide] some kind of trash talk in the corner? No. He just told me that I was too relaxed. But I didn’t think that Tiago would try to hold a takedown against me.”
Nurmagomedov has suggested that Makhachev is a little behind schedule on his rise to succeed him as lightweight champion.
“He comes to the United States without his family,” Makhachev said of his mentor’s influence and dedication. “He stays here for one or two months, just to help.
“He doesn’t take money, he just comes and helps the whole team. He does everything for the team. We arrived in the USA, in San Jose without him. He rented a big house for the team, rented a lot of cars, and no-one paid for anything. He paid for everyone.
“I cannot explain everything about Khabib. He does a lot, but no one knows about it. We all have to say thank you to him.”
Asked who he would like to fight next out of contenders Michael Chandler, Rafael dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson, Makhachev said he would “probably” prefer Ferguson before the end of the year.
“We have a great history with him,” he explained. “Khabib had to fight him five or six times [in postponed fights], right? Let’s finish this business. I will put an end to this.
“I will show the whole world that Tony is not at the level of Khabib. People don’t understand what kind of pressure comes from Khabib. I can’t explain to you, but I think you know.
“Do I like the comparison with Khabib? If someone says that Islam is almost like Nurmagomedov, I accept it. I would like to be like Khabib.
“He’s a great guy. He is a champion, he has a lot of money. He has everything. But he’s still a humble guy.”
Manager Ali Abdelaziz told Ferguson that Makhachev had “asked me about your location.” “When [Conor] McGregor comes back, I want to see [Makhachev] break his neck, not his leg,” he added.
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