Islam Makhachev: Dustin Poirier ‘doesn’t believe he can beat me,’ talks Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return

Islam Makhachev has a lot of respect for Dustin Poirier, even if he gives him no chance to actually win at UFC 302.

As he prepares to defend his lightweight title in Saturday’s main event from New Jersey, Makhachev addressed Poirier as an opponent after the American earned the opportunity with a single win over Benoit Saint Denis back in March. In many ways, Makhachev sees Poirier as the same fighter who faced his friend, mentor, and coach Khabib Nurmagomedov back in 2019.

The only difference now is Poirier is five years older.

“Honestly, he’s the same,” Makhachev said at UFC 302 media day. “Maybe [he’s older]. He doesn’t believe he can beat me. His coach doesn’t believe he can beat me. I know I can make this fight easy.

“I will finish him. Because I am on a different level. I am the best fighter in the world right now.”

Make no mistake, Makhachev admires Poirier and is actually rather excited for this fight after spending all of 2023 locked up in a pair of matchups against former UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

That being said, Makhachev knows there’s a blueprint to follow when it comes to beating Poirier — and the two-time title challenger hasn’t shown any real proficiency in proving that strategy wrong.

“Honestly, my style is the worst style for him,” Makhachev said. “He can beat some strikers. He’s one of the best strikers in this game, but we’re not strikers. We’re MMA fighters. My skills are on a different level.

“I can strike with him, but I told you guys, if I want to make this fight easy, I know the way and everybody [else] know the way. Always when his opponent pressure him, take him down, he has the same problems always.”

If Makhachev didn’t feel like he had enough advantages already, he added one more piece to the puzzle with Nurmagomedov returning to coach and corner him for the upcoming fight on Saturday.

While the retired UFC Hall of Famer still helped Makhachev during his training camps, Nurmagomedov opted to stop cornering teammates more than a year ago to instead put more of a focus on his family and businesses outside of fighting.

Nurmagomedov kept a hectic travel schedule working with all the fighters in his camp, so he bowed out completely until making his return to corner Makhachev at UFC 302.

“This means a lot,” Makhachev said of Nurmagomedov returning to his corner. “This is like [adding] to striking 20 percent, to wrestling 20 percent, to the plan. It’s always great to have Khabib in the corner. Because I think he gives me good advice in a lot of fights. I remember with Gleison Tibau, he told me try to land the left hook. I did and I finished him. With [Dan] Hooker, he gave me very good advice when I finished him by armbar. With the title fight, he gave me a lot of good advice.

“Always good to have Khabib in the corner. It’s not just for me. Good news, everybody was happy when Khabib said, ‘I will be in the corner.’ Everybody understands he’s going to corner them too, and everybody was happy.”

Makhachev credits Nurmagomedov as an incredible coach, who pushes his fighters with the same kind of work ethic and discipline that was taught to him by his late father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

As far as the decision to come back and corner fighters again, Makhachev felt like Nurmagomedov could do just about anything but sit on the sidelines as nothing more than an observer.

“I think No. 1, he missed the feeling,” Makhachev said. “I think he was very nervous when he sits in a room watching the fight. He always takes care of us. He wants to help. That’s why he’s here, he’s going to be in my corner.”

Nurmagomedov put together a pretty impressive résumé as a coach and cornerman before taking a step back from the sport, but he’ll attempt to continue that momentum with his return for Makhachev’s fight at UFC 302.

Obviously, Makhachev expects a dominant win, but even if he vanquishes Poirier as expected, he still hopes “The Diamond” decides to shine a little longer rather than possibly calling it a career.

“I hope he [doesn’t] retire after this fight,” Makhachev said of Poirier. “I think he’s one of the biggest names in the sport. That’s why I respect him. I respect him because he has a lot of crazy fights in this sport. Just happy to beat someone who has a big name like Dustin. For the legacy, it’s going to be maybe the biggest name on my list.”

Source link

You May Also Like