After Conor McGregor knocked out Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, he dismissed Khabib Nurmagomedov as his next opponent, claiming he wasn’t interested in taking that fight because Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought frequently enough to earn a shot at the title, per Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com.
Nurmagomedov’s coach, Javier Mendez, interpreted McGregor’s words a bit differently.
"Yes, 100 percent, he is ducking Khabib," Mendez told Okamoto. "I know that from the words he is saying. ‘He doesn’t fight enough for my taste’? Give me a break. You can say, ‘Hey, I want to fight Nate Diaz a third time.’ Fine. Say that. But don’t try to put my guy down because you are trying to avoid him. Don’t belittle my guy. That’s bulls–t."
Mendez feels his fighter measures up well against McGregor:
When [McGregor] fought Chad Mendes, I thought it proved he wasn’t ducking anybody. But now he’s doing this and I’m thinking he’s trying to avoid Khabib. I think Khabib, [lightweight contenders] Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson all give Conor a hell of a fight—but the guy who gives him the worst time, by far, is Khabib. He’s the strongest grappler in the division.
Mendez may be biased, but Nurmagomedov is a perfect 24-0 in his professional fighting career and is fresh off a submission victory over Michael Johnson at UFC 205. Nurmagomedov is so confident that he was heard talking to UFC President Dana White during the bout.
"Hey, be careful. I’m gonna smash your boy," Nurmagomedov said to White between rounds of his fight with Johnson, referencing McGregor.
"Just get through this first," White responded.
You can see the exchange below:
So serious is Nurmagomedov about getting his title shot that he’s threatened to quit the UFC altogether if he doesn’t get it.
Nonetheless, McGregor appears to be positioning himself for the biggest possible payday and highest-profile fight the next time he enters the Octagon. McGregor has even said he wants $100 million to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match, per Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting.
A champion in two divisions, McGregor has earned the right to seek the most lucrative fights available. Nurmagomedov, quite simply, may not yet appease McGregor’s desire for a fight of that stature.