UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov believes he is superior to Tony Ferguson in a number of areas.
Nurmagomedov is set to defend his title against Ferguson in the UFC 249 headliner which takes place April 18 in Brooklyn, New York.
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It’s a fight many in the mixed martial arts world have wanted to see for years with the pair both boasting 12-fight active winning streaks within the promotion.
There’s no doubt that Ferguson is Nurmagomedov’s biggest challenge to date, at least on paper. However, “The Eagle” remains confident of his chances.
“I always rate my chances higher than those of my opponents since I can’t approach a fight with uncertainty,” Nurmagomedov said in a recent press conference in Russia. “I think I’m a lot better than him at wrestling, I’m much better than him physically. I’m tougher than him, and I haven’t lost yet, unlike him.
“Unlike him, I haven’t been knocked down yet. He has, I believe seven UFC knockdowns, a lot of falls from punches. So I can hit, I’m going to hit him especially hard.”
That said, Nurmagomedov felt it was necessary to praise the skillset of Ferguson who he has long regarded as a great adversary.
“I think it’s probably also right to note his strengths,” Nurmagomedov added. “He’s also on a good winning streak, he hasn’t lost since 2012. He’s a very good opponent. In the history of the UFC, there’s never been a fight between two people with 12 wins in a row. So it will be a big, historic event.
“As an opponent, I take him very seriously. I train wherever I am but from January I’ll start training hard. If I started intensive training in December it would be wrong because then it would be four months, you can overload. To distribute the load evenly, we’ll start in January. That’s about 100 days of hard training and, as they say, [get] into battle.”
The intrigue behind a Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson fight is the stylistic matchup as well as the mentality of both fighters. Nurmagomedov likes to wrestle and wear his opponents down. Ferguson is an unorthodox fighter who has a high-level ground game as well as cardio for days.
Unlike other opponents, Ferguson might even welcome the takedown. However, nobody knows for sure until April 18, which is why Nurmagomedov feels it’s an interesting fight.
“When I grab him, I don’t know how he’ll react,” he added. “That’s what makes the fight interesting.”