Before undergoing final preparations and media obligations for his UFC 205 bout against Michael Johnson, Khabib Nurmagomedov had an important visit to make first.
“All the time when I come to New York, I go to visit him,” Nurmagomedov said of seeing former heavyweight contender Magomed Abdusalamov. “Mago” was on the fast track to the top of the boxing world before a loss to Mike Perez in 2013 left him permanently injured.
Many have forgotten Abdusalamov. Not Nurmagomedov.
“When I was a kid, we lived very close and we trained in the same gym,” the lightweight contender said during Wednesday’s Ultimate Media Day at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “I know him a long, long time. He's a real man. I'm very upset about the situation and I hope very soon he will solve the problem with his health.”
A photo posted by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Nov 6, 2016 at 7:48pm PST
It shows a lot about the character of Nurmagomedov, 28, because not too many fighters would want a reminder of what could happen in any contact sport on any given night. It has crossed the mind of Nurmagomedov, but he fights on.
“Yes, I think about this,” he said. “In training, if somebody punches your head or you have tough sparring, and then you go into the fight … this is very dangerous, but I stay relaxed because everything happens because God wants it.
“This makes me relax. Because if God wants, you can die in the next minute. It doesn't matter. That's why I only think only about good things, because if God wants, anything can happen.”
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The good things for Nurmagomedov have been happening since April, when he put his injury woes behind him and defeated Darrell Horcher in his first fight in two years.
“Yes, I'm very excited about this because at the beginning of my training camp, when I finished Ramadan in August, I had hard training in August, September, October, now is November, and I had almost 12 hard training weeks,” he said. “My weight is good, everything is good now and I'm very excited.”
And with a win over Johnson, the 23-0 Nurmagomedov may secure a long-awaited crack at the 155-pound title that Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor will be fighting for in Saturday’s main event. Yet when it comes to fighting the winner, Nurmagomedov isn’t getting too excited yet.
“I hope,” he said with a laugh. “But nobody knows. I have a tough opponent and I have to focus on Michael Johnson. Michael is not an easy man, he's got very fast hands, and I'm going to try to finish him and then fight for the title. This is my plan. But this is up to (whomever) wins - McGregor or Alvarez.
“If McGregor wins, I don't think he'll take this fight. I hope Alvarez wins, because if Alvarez wins, he's said he wants to fight with me. And that's why I hope he wins. But I think it is 50-50.”
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