Undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has urged Dustin Poirier to hang on until the later rounds in order to defeat Conor McGregor at UFC 257. The Russian, who announced his retirement from mixed martial arts in October, has beaten both men in the Octagon during his career.
Khabib secured a dominant win over McGregor in 2018, delivering a brutal beating for the opening 15 minutes before earning a deserved victory by way of submission in the fourth round.
Poirier became his next victim a year later in similar fashion, the difference being that the bout was stopped one round earlier.
Ahead of the fight, which will begin at around 5am on Sunday morning for UK viewers, Khabib delivered his verdict on how events will unfold.
He backed McGregor to take the spoils inside the first two rounds with a knockout finish, but suggested that Poirier’s stamina could swing the bout his way if it goes the distance.
Khabib told the UFC‘s ‘Looking For A Fight’ show: “Just two rounds – Conor. Early, it’s Conor. But, third round, number four, I think Dustin can beat this guy.”
McGregor appears to be in fantastic shape ahead of the fight in Abu Dhabi, weighing in right on the lightweight limit of 155lbs on Friday.
The 32-year-old has been tipped to face Khabib in a highly-anticipated rematch later this year, a proposition that UFC chief Dana White is keen to turn into a reality.
The undefeated Russian has been in talks with White over a possible return to the Octagon in the near future, with another showdown able to provide a monumental payday for both fighters.
McGregor claimed on Friday that their rivalry has not yet been settled and suggested that he would be more than happy to seek revenge.
“It’s a tough business,” he told reporters. “Things have gone on in his personal life, I don’t wish any harm, it was 2018, a lot of time has passed.
“The world knows this war is not over, the sport needs it to happen, the people need it to happen. I’m not going to chase it if he doesn’t want it. I’ll keep my calm and move on.
“That’s what I’m doing, I’m back here at the 155lb division, I’ll show the world what’s what over time and that’s it.
“I train for myself,” said Khabib. “The biggest thing that gives me pleasure is training. I enjoy when I wrestle, run, spar, work on pads, when I work on the punch bags.
“This is what I have been doing all my life, and I will continue to train constantly, as well but if we talk about the fights, they are not a part of my plans.
“They constantly discuss: ‘He will come back, he will not come back’. You know, today we have 2021. A year ago it was 2020. The same time, January, and so much has happened.
“We don’t know what will happen in 2022, 2023, you know, so let’s not talk about it. No one knows what will happen tomorrow.
“I don’t even have any plans for the UFC in the near future. I don’t have any thoughts about preparing for a fight.”