When Tony Ferguson was forced out of the UFC 223 main event with a freak leg injury—on April Fools of all days—the UFC began a frantic hunt for a replacement opponent for Khabib Nurmagomedov. Though the promotion also considered Eddie Alvarez and Brian Ortega, it ultimately landed on UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, who will have just 6 days to prepare for the massive challenges Nurmagomedov presents.
Nurmagomedov, of course, is happy Holloway stepped up, as it means he’ll still have a chance to fight for the lightweight title this weekend, and he’ll still get paid. If he were in Holloway’s position, however, and the UFC came calling asking him to step up and fight on 6 days notice with no preparation, he’d have said no.
“If UFC has a problem, it’s UFC’s problem,” Nurmagomedov said. “That’s why my name is Khabib. UFC’s name is UFC. I care about my legacy. Why any one take [fight] six days before fights? I would not do this.”
While Holloway will have little time to prepare, Nurmagomedov is wary of the challenges he brings to the table.
“I scared about this when I think about this,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t want to underestimate this guy. This guy has 12[-fight] win streak in the UFC. One of the greatest who ever compete in UFC.”
“I don’t want to think it’s much easier fight than Tony Ferguson,” Nurmagomedov said. “I don’t think. I think if [Holloway and Ferguson] fight, Max Holloway would give him big problem.”
Needless to say, Nurmagomedov has mountains of respect for the UFC featherweight champ.
“He wants to fight for the money,” he said. “I respect him. Aloha, Max. He champion for a reason at 145.”
Who do you think comes out on top in UFC 223’s new Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Max Holloway main event?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/3/2018.