Tony Ferguson has been toting his UFC interim lightweight belt around with him all week — even though he no longer technically owns that title. Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is the undisputed lightweight champion, is surprisingly just fine with that.
“When you fight like this, high-level fight, you have to believe you’re the champ, nobody can beat you,” Khabib Nurmagomedov said Thursday at the UFC 229 pre-fight press conference (transcript via MMAjunkie). “It’s OK. I’m OK about this.”
While Khabib Nurmagomedov was willing to give Tony Ferguson a pass for bringing his belt to Las Vegas for UFC 229, the lightweight champion did not appreciate it when UFC President Dana White asked where Conor McGregor’s belts were at the first press conference for UFC 229.
McGregor was once a two-division champion, proudly owning both the lightweight and featherweight titles, but he has since been stripped of both titles for inactivity. Nurmagomedov wishes White would acknowledge that reality.
“I’m not OK about this, because Dana already know where is Conor belts,” Nurmagomedov said, as Dana White stood right beside him. “[UFC featherweight champion] Max Holloway and Khabib Nurmagomedov [have them now], he have to know. But he bring with him belts, believe himself. It’s OK. I’m OK about this. But tell this guy [White], hey, [McGregor] lose his belts. He lose his mind.”
If it sounds like Khabib Nurmagomedov feels some real animus toward Conor McGregor, well, that’s because he does. He considers his UFC 229 title fight with the Irishman more than just a title defense. In his eyes, its something closer to punishment.
“For me, this is more than defend my title,” Nurmagomedov said. “For me, is more than fight for the title. More than main event. For me, is personal. Honestly, for me is personal.”
“If I say no [I’m not emotional], this is not true,” Nurmagomedov added. “A little bit, of course. I’m angry, a little bit emotional. But my job, when I go to the cage, I have to control my emotional. I have to stay relaxed, but keep going and maul this guy.”
Who do you think will come out on top when the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov meets the former champion Conor McGregor at UFC 229 tomorrow night?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/5/2018.