The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 242 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
Having completed the suspension for his part in a post-fight melee at UFC 229, Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov on Saturday returned to action after an 11-month layoff to battle Dustin Poirier in the UFC 242 main event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Dagestani destroyer dominated “The Diamond” on the ground with smothering top pressure and ground-and-pound, until the American Top Team product exposed his neck and Nurmagomedov locked in the fight-ending rear-naked choke in the third round.
“[Poirier] beat a lot of tough guys,” Nurmagomedov said during the ESPN+ post-fight show. “He’s a tough guy. He’s not easy for nobody. His boxing is good, his movement is good, he has experience. He has more than 20 fights in the UFC. Before I choke him, we fight very good. It was a little bit of domination. I feel like he controlled some of my techniques, like on the ground and standup.”
The victory pushed Nurmagomedov’s undefeated record to an amazing 28-0, while the loss ended a four-fight winning streak for his counterpart. The defeat was only the second loss for Poirier in nearly five years. Despite wobbling the champion with a right hand in the second round and locking in a guillotine submission Nurmagomedov admitted was “close” in the third round, the 23-fight UFC veteran was understandably disappointed in the outcome.
“I just feel like I let myself down,” Poirier said in the immediate aftermath. “I didn’t cut any corners preparing for this. I felt like my whole career set me up for this. Maybe there were times in there [where] I could have done more, but I was just so prepared. Now I got to wake up and look myself in the mirror every morning with this result. I’m sorry for anybody I let down for this performance. I promise you I wanted this more than anything.”
This marked the second straight successful title defense Nurmagomedov. After the fight, the question of who would be the next to try to solve his riddle began to circulate. A familiar name came to the forefront: Tony Ferguson. “EL Cucuy” has won 12 consecutive bouts and has not lost in more than seven years. He has been booked opposite Nurmagomedov on four separate occasions in the past, only to have the fight undercut by injuries or botched weight cuts. The highly anticipated battle sits atop the dream-fight wish list for many fans.
“UFC makes decision,” Nurmagomedov said. “I think, yes, he deserves this. It is going to be a good fight.”
With the champion leaving the matchmaking to the promotion, UFC President Dana White gave fans some hope that they would finally get to see the encounter for which they have long waited.
“Yeah, he’s next. Tony Ferguson is next in line for the fight if he accepts the fight,” White said. “We will see how this thing plays out, when Khabib will fight again and if Tony wants to fight.”
Ferguson does not appear to be the only option for the American Kickboxing Academy superstar. Nurmagomedov’s former rival, Conor McGregor, took to Twitter immediately following his latest win to make a demand: “Book my rematch for Moscow.” The two men battled each other at UFC 229 in October, with Nurmagomedov submitting the Irishman in the fourth round. The match became so personal that it led to unnecessary confrontations before and after it took place. However, the bad blood proved to be marketing gold, as UFC 229 set the all-time record for pay-per-view buys.
“Tony Ferguson gets the next shot,” White said. “Obviously, for whatever reason, [if] Tony can’t take the fight or doesn’t want the fight at that time, we will figure out who’s next. But yeah, Conor would make a lot of sense. Conor McGregor wants that fight really badly, and I’m sure the fans would want to see it. Let’s see how this whole thing plays out.”
Meanwhile, former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St. Pierre has mentioned coming out of retirement for a super fight with Nurmagomedov. White was quick to respond when asked about the possibility.
“Sure,” he said. “Sure.”