Former undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov was widely expected to headline UFC 205 all the way back in November of 2016 against the then-undisputed champion, Eddie Alvarez, until then-featherweight champion, Conor McGregor swooped in and headlined the inaugural event for the promotion in the state of New York.
Appearing on Mike Tyson’s podcast HotBoxing podcast recently, however, Khabib explained how the promotion had played a game with him regarding the potential lightweight title challenge against Alvarez — initially offering a bout agreement to meet with the Philidelphia native before the promotion then booked a title fight between Alvarez and the aforenoted, McGregor.
Voicing his dismay at the promotion after had put pen to paper on two contracts to fight against Alvarez either at UFC 205 or a UFC 206 event, the latter of which in Canada — Khabib called the UFC a “freak show” in reaction to the confirmed lightweight title clash between Alvarez and McGregor.
“That night (at UFC 205), I was very emotional because the fight have big history,” Khabib told Tyson and co-host, former UFC two-weight champion, Henry Cejudo. “They (the UFC) send me contract fight versus (Eddie) Alvarez, fight for the title. First of all, they send me fight in Canada. I sign contract. Then, they send me a fight with him in, I think, Madison Square Garden. I sign contract. And I was, ‘What’s going on? I don’t understand why this guy send me, like, two different contract.’“
“I sign contract then I see in media, like, Conor (McGregor) gonna fight with Alvarez,” Khabib explained. “And I was like, ‘Hey, I supposed to fiht with him. I sign already contract.“
Khabib theorized that the UFC offered McGregor the bout agreement in a bid to capitalize on his pay-per-view drawing potential, as well as using Nurmagomedov’s name to entice the two to ink a deal in a timely fashion.
“I think they (the UFC) play game,” Khabib continued. “They play game, and I send Dana (White) message, ‘Hey, I understand everything. Okay, if you guys give Conor this fight, I understand this guy’s big name.’ That time, I don’t have big name. ‘You just use my name to force them to sign contract. I understand everything. Ok, just give me someone. I wanna fight same night.“
Eventually matching with then-lightweight contender, Michael Johnson at UFC 205, whom he submitted with a dominant third round kimura, Khabib explained how the UFC then scrambled to find him an opponent for the November date.
“‘Just give me someone,” Khabib said. “You big organization, just find me someone.’ They Say, ‘Ok’. It was, like, one month before the fight, they say, ‘You just be ready, we’re gonna fight you (a fight).” (H/T BloodyElbow)
Whilst Khabib went on to submit Johnson in the night’s featured preliminary bout, McGregor would go on to become the first two-weight champion held simultaneously in the history of the promotion — clinching the undisputed lightweight championship with a stellar, eventual second round knockout over Alvarez.