With that said, however, there is a big distinction between UFC lightweight champion and undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov explained in a recent interview with ESPN. In his eyes, Oliveira (33-8 MMA, 21-8 UFC) is the former but not the latter.
“If Charles wins against Islam, we have to give him credit,” Nurmagomedov said. “Then he’s going to be undisputed UFC lightweight champion. Right now, I believe he’s champion. I believe even this. People talk about the half-pound. I believe he deserved it. Right now, in this moment, he deserved to be champion. He’s doing a very good job, you know? But he’s not undisputed. When I finished, I was undisputed.”
The central argument Nurmagomedov made was he fought more prime contenders and solidified himself without question as the 155-pound division’s best. Oliveira has one box left unchecked, a fighter Nurmagomedov thinks is the best in the world, his longtime teammate Islam Makhachev (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC).
Nurmagomedov heavily lobbied for Makhachev to be next, though UFC president Dana White has remained publicly noncommittal. According to Nurmagomedov, White recently ignored his texts, which lobbied for the potential matchup.
“The last couple of years, people don’t even touch him,” Nurmagomedov said. “They don’t even touch him. He fight with Drew Dober. He fight with all these guys. They’re good strikers (and) they don’t even touch him, even one time, two time. Islam dominated them, all of them. The last 11 months, he finished four opponents. He finished all of them.”
Mostly soft-spoken and serious during his fighting career, Nurmagomedov has been a bit more outspoken as a coach. Not only did he lobby for Makhachev vs. Oliveira, he wants it in Brazil and promised a finish.
“It was me. Now, it will become Islam,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is like father told. He say, ‘Last 10 years, best lightweight in the world, this is my students.’ This is how my father told. ‘When Khabib going to finish, Islam going to come.’ OK, if they want Brazil, no problem. We’re going to come to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, no problem. We’re going to come there two weeks before the fight, rent some big house, come with big team, make weight (not like Charles Oliveira). We’re going to make weight.
“We’re going to finish Charles Oliveira on his game, on the ground – on the ground, on Brazilian land,” Nurmagomedov said. “We’re going to teach all fans what is top control, how we finish people. We’re going to get the belt and go back. We’re going to take some big hugs from Brazilian fans. They’re going to love Islam’s ground game.”